The difference between Michigan’s offensive success this season and in past years under coach Jim Harbaugh can be summed up by the play of one position: quarterback.
Junior Shea Patterson, although not a dual-threat option, kept Ohio State guessing at points on Saturday in a 62-39 loss for Wolverines at Ohio Stadium, forcing the Buckeyes to choose between a quarterback on the move and a running back standing open in the flat.
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Patterson was 20-of-34 passing for 187 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, enough to show that he can be a quarterback who potentially can beat the Buckeyes. After all, his team put up 39 points against them.
“He was doing everything he could,” Harbaugh said.
But his first taste of the rivalry since transferring from Mississippi was sour, and one for which he said he feels largely responsible.
“I'm the quarterback and I have the ball in my hand every snap,” Patterson said. “And you know I take full responsibility for our faults on offense.”
Quiet day for Higdon
Michigan running back Karan Higdon was limited to 72 yards on 15 carries, with 53 of those yards coming on three plays. He failed to score for just the third time this season.
Higdon has been the backbone of the Wolverines offense, entering the game with 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.
Ohio State was allowing 161.3 rushing yards per game, making for a potential mismatch, but the Buckeyes’ defense played sound. The gaps were stuffed with linebackers, and linemen burst into the backfield to catch Higdon, limiting his effectiveness.
Special teams meltdown
The Wolverines went 1 for 3 on big special-teams plays.
In the final minute of the first half, Ohio State’s Demario McCall muffed a kickoff. Nate Schoenle recovered, and on the next play, Chris Evans caught a 9-yard pass from Patterson to cut Ohio State's lead to 21-19.
But the next pair of special teams issues went decidedly against the Wolverines.
After Ohio State took a 27-19 lead in the third quarter, Ambry Thomas fielded the ensuing kickoff and tiptoed out of bounds at the Michigan 8-yard line instead of signalling for a fair catch that would have placed the ball the at 25.
Six plays later, Michigan was forced to punt from the 36. Ohio State freshman Chris Olave stuck out his left hand and blocked the ball. It squirted up and came down into the hands of Sevyn Banks, who caught it in stride and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown.