The Michigan Wolverines offense has been on the up and up, aided by a strong running game and top notch run blocking and pass protection by its offensive line.
Michigan’s running game has now become a force, with the likes of Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet combining for 573 yards and 6 touchdowns their last three games. However, if the running game gets bottled up, Michigan will have to turn to quarterback Shea Patterson and his talented group of wideouts.
Michigan’s 45-14 drubbing of Notre Dame was an old-school offensive attack due to heavy rain falling throughout the first three quarters. In all, Patterson attempted just 12 passes, completing 6 of them for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. It’s safe to say in the weeks ahead, Patterson will be asked to carry a heavier load than a dozen pass attempts.
As great as Michigan’s run game has looked in recent weeks, the best offenses in football have as many weapons in their arsenal as possible, able to attack a team through the air and on the ground when need be, and that’s the type of offense Michigan aims to be.
Not only will the passing game need to continue improving, the ascension of Shea Patterson as a dual-threat quarterback is going to have a major say as to whether Michigan wins the rest of their games or not.
Patterson was hurt on the first play of the first game of the season, and it took him a while to re-gain his health. With health comes confidence, with health comes less restrictions.
“He’s nifty when he’s running around in the pocket,” offensive line coach Ed Warinner said this week. “He made some plays the other day, extending. He’s always been good at that. And in the run game, when he’s healthy, we’ve used him as an element in the read-option, and he’s had a lot of success doing that.”
Patterson is a competitive player willing to take a hit running the football. A scrambler by nature, he’s at his best when he’s on the move.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have been running around and throwing the football,” Patterson said after beating Rutgers. “That’s always been natural to me.”
Shea Patterson showing off his throwing on the run ability, hits Donovan Peoples-Jones, who scores for Michigan. pic.twitter.com/JICEcoDaeT— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) October 6, 2018
“It’s something we talked about and Shea embraced,” Jim Harbaugh said. “When you are running the ball, and both sides know you’re running, having that quarterback as a potential threat or runner is key.”
The uptick in Patterson running the football has an impact on the running game as a whole. If defenders aren’t certain if Patterson will be the one running the football or if he’ll be handing the ball off to a back, that can freeze them momentarily, and in that fraction of a second an offense can hit a big play due to a defense freezing up with flat feet.
“The quarterback run game is a very big part of what we do. Missed a couple of opportunities early in the season where he could have pulled the ball,” tackle Jalen Mayfield said. “But he’s done an unbelievable job of looking at film and picking up on the things he did wrong early in the season. For him being as big of a leader as he is in the locker room, I think him just asserting himself is going to be a big part of our success.”
Everyone is on the same page when it comes to Patterson running the football more, it’ll be a big part of the offense in the weeks ahead. It’s an added wrinkle defenses can no longer ignore, the frequency of Patterson pulling the ball will be at a higher clip now than it was early in the season.
“That’s opened up a big lane for us in terms of the offense,” tight end Nick Eubanks said. “Once he does those Shea things, he’s more comfortable. He’s doing what he does best.”
Not only has it opened up a big lane for the offense so to speak, Shea being allowed to do Shea things makes him more confident as a passer too. Some quarterbacks need to run around to get them at a level to where the speed of the game itself doesn’t phase them. Patterson running the football can actually help him as a passer in terms of aggressiveness and getting the football out quick, and surveying the field in a faster manner. It helps Patterson in situations where the pocket is collapsing and he needs to get out of dodge. There’s a mental wiring in the DNA of a dual-threat QB that makes one aggressively move up and out of trouble to extend a play in the passing game. A major plus of Patterson’s game is that ability, scrambling when the pocket is no longer clean and moving to the sideline while keeping his eyes up-field in hopes of finding an open receiver for a big play.
Patterson said after the Penn State game that it was the most healthy he has been all year, and that explains why we’re seeing him run more, be it to buy more time to throw, or on read-option runs.
“I thought Shea was really fast,” Harbaugh said of Patterson’s showing versus Notre Dame. “It was his fastest game he’s played as a runner. Just moving around, scrambles, he looked really quick and fast. It helped a lot.”
This is the final stretch of the season for Michigan, there’s only four more games on the regular season schedule, and it’s full systems go for Patterson as a dual-threat QB. There’s no restrictions, no red light, if he needs to scramble he’s going to, if he should pull the football, he’s probably going to. And I contend the fact that he’s running the football more and will continue to will lead to better performances from Patterson through the air as well. Just like humans need oxygen and water to survive, for a dual threat QB like Patterson, read-option runs and scrambling aid his aggressiveness and effectiveness as a passer. He needs both in his repertoire to be who he truly is, that’s when Shea Patterson is at his best.
SHEA PATTERSON 81 YARD RUN SHOWING OFF HIS WHEELS pic.twitter.com/mduuugDoPX— Wolverine Coverage (@WolverineCorner) October 14, 2018