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Shea Patterson provides improved quarterback play for Michigan heading into matchup with Badgers

October 9, 2018

When a reporter asked Jim Harbaugh for his thoughts on the segment of Twitter users who remain unsatisfied with quarterback Shea Patterson’s performance this season, the Michigan coach used his 7-year-old daughter, Katie, to make a point.

She does not play sports and holds no desire to do so, yet even she can tell Patterson’s playing well through his first six games since transferring from Ole Miss in the offseason.

“I’ll go with Katie,” Harbaugh added.

Indeed, Patterson’s giving the 12th-ranked Wolverines (5-1, 3-0) an element on offense they were missing last year when sputtering to a disappointing 8-5 finish.

Starter Wilton Speight suffered a season-ending back injury in September last year before backups John O’Korn and Brandon Peters combined for just six passing touchdowns and eight interceptions the rest of the way.

Patterson bested that in less than half a season, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 1,187 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s coming off a three-touchdown performance against Maryland and could pose a problem for the University of Wisconsin’s banged up secondary when the 15th-ranked Badgers (4-1, 2-0) travel to Ann Arbor this weekend.

“You’ve got to defend the whole offense first, and then you know a big part of that is his ability to threaten you in a number of different ways,” UW coach Paul Chryst said of Patterson. “I think he’s continuing to get better and better, and he sure has been good this year.”

Patterson doesn’t run the ball too often but owns plenty of athleticism and excels at buying himself time to throw.

Harbaugh said Patterson has an innate feel for the game and compared him to a basketball point guard because of his ability to see the field, understand the spacing between players and recognize how to find the most beneficial matchup for his offense.

“Shea does a really good job first with the decision-making, accuracy, his timing,” Harbaugh said. “He protects the ball in the pocket ... (He) has a knack of making the right escape move from the pocket in terms of scrambling, and he’s smart when he’s out of the pocket.

“Shea’s playing really well. Everybody can see that and notices that.”

UW will surely notice Patterson’s strong early-season play this week, too.

The Badgers are coming off a win over Nebraska in which they surrendered 407 passing yards, and two of their top three cornerbacks - Caesar Williams (left leg) and Deron Harrell (head) - are questionable to play Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Starting safety Scott Nelson will also miss the first half after being ejected for targeting in the third quarter against the Cornhuskers.

With Patterson running the show, improvement this week won’t be an easy task for UW.

“We’ll just have to be on our game, play smart football,” UW safety D’Cota Dixon said. “He makes good decisions. ... He has a good arm, and he has good athletes to distribute the ball to. He’s a great quarterback. No question about it.”

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