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Inflection Point: Rutgers 2018

Rutgers caveats aside, a brilliant performance from Shea Patterson in Piscataway could propel him to a strong finish in 2018...a la another transfer quarterback in the Harbaugh era.

Michigan v Rutgers Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Shea Patterson had his best day in a winged helmet Saturday in Piscataway.

He completed 18-of-27 throws for 260 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. He launched inch-perfect throws, both in the pocket and on the run.

Yes, a Chris Christie-sized Rutgers caveat applies. However, Patterson had been anywhere between game manager to occasional play-maker in his first nine games. If he uses Saturday as a launching point for a late autumn explosion, this offense goes from pretty good to absolutely lethal.

His stats before this weekend:

  • 134-of-201 (66.7 percent), 1,667 yards, 14 TD, 3 INT

In nine games, that’s a decent-looking average stat line of 15-of-22 for 185 yards and one to two touchdowns. To add 75 passing yards and seven to 14 points just from the quarterback is a luxury for a Wolverine unit that already averages 37 points per game.

Why does this matter in a blowout against a historically bad Rutgers team? Past precedent.

Another of Harbaugh’s transfer quarterbacks used a performance against the Scarlet Knights to turn a corner in his Michigan career.

It’s easy to forget Jake Rudock was a mess for the first two months of 2015.

  • 134-of-217 (61.7 percent), 1,443 yards, 6 TD, 7 INT

He used a 337-yard and two-touchdown afternoon against Rutgers to propel him to a season finish that would place him in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.

After that, the former Iowa starter compiled 1,237 yards and 12 scores in just four contests. He went from future doctor to Detroit Lions backup in just five games.

What’s encouraging for Patterson is he has already been more efficient than Rudock was three years ago — more yards, better completion rate, less turnovers.

With opposing coaches like Chris Ash loading the box with eight to 10 defenders, Patterson needs to make defenses pay consistently over the top. When Harbaugh’s offenses at Stanford were operating a peak condition, Andrew Luck was making excellent units like Virginia Tech pay for over-committing resources to stuffing the run.

Skip to 4:05. Notice how everyone is within six yards of the line of scrimmage.

Patterson’s performance potentially stands as a turning point in the Harbaugh tenure. It could spell a final surge down the stretch, and finally provide Michigan with the same Stanford offense that pummeled all in its path.