In the final moments of Michigan’s 39-14 win at Indiana on Saturday, chants of “beat Ohio” began behind the Michigan bench, building until the final whistle, when they turned into screams of joy as the Wolverines ran off the field.
Nearly 20 minutes later, quarterback Shea Patterson and defensive linemen Aidan Hutchinson walked into the news conference room at Memorial Stadium, ready and willing to talk about Ohio State.
Only moments after his 366 yards passing and five touchdowns against the Hoosiers, Patterson had moved on to the Buckeyes.
“We understand the level of intensity this game brings,” Patterson said. “Everything we do leading up to this game next week is already planned throughout the season. I think Ohio State, just the word ‘Ohio State’ itself, is enough for us.”
When Patterson transferred to Michigan from Mississippi nearly two years ago, it was for with moments like this.
In 24 career games with the Wolverines, he has thrown for 5,123 yards and 43 touchdowns. Two weeks ago, he threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan State, breaking Tom Brady’s record for most passing yards by a Michigan quarterback against the Spartans.
That said, things weren’t always going so smoothly for Patterson and the Michigan offense.
The season started on a rocky note for Patterson, who suffered an oblique injury in the opener against Middle Tennessee State, an injury that not only took away some of his athleticism but appeared to shake his confidence.
Three weeks later, the Wolverines suffered their first loss, falling to Wisconsin 35-14, a game in which Patterson (14 of 32, 219 yards) failed to gain any momentum. Four weeks later, Penn State upended Michigan 28-21 as Patterson threw a career-high 41 passes but finished with only 276 yards.
In the four weeks since that loss to the Nittany Lions, however, the Wolverines have been a different team on offense, thanks in large part to the rejuvenated play of Patterson. In those games, he has thrown 14 touchdown passes and a single interception.
“We’re riding him,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “His play has been outstanding. He’s really seeing the field well and taking care of the football at all times. He’s playing good, disciplined football.”
Receiver Nico Collins put together a career game against Indiana, with six catches for 165 yards and three touchdowns. The strong play of Collins, who leads Michigan with 649 yards receiving, coupled with the emergence of Ronnie Bell (616 yards) and the steady play of Donovan Peoples-Jones (335 yards, five touchdowns), gives Patterson a plethora of weapons on the outside.
“Shea believed in me and I believed in him,” Collins said Saturday. “We were just out there having fun today. I feel like we’ve been having fun as an offensive unit since Penn State.”
In nearly two years at Michigan, Patterson, who is 13-0 in his career at Michigan Stadium, has defeated Notre Dame and Michigan State. All he’s missing is the biggest legacy-builder of them all — a win over Ohio State.
“I feel we’re finally clicking,” Collins said. “We have one more game left; it’s time to finish strong.”