ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — With 17 seconds left in the game against Michigan State, Shae Patterson walked over to Jim Harbaugh before taking the field one final time.
Harbaugh looked over to Patterson and told him to hang onto the ball after he knelt down to end the game rather than throwing it into the air to celebrate. Patterson had other ideas. After the he took the snap and knee, Patterson ran over to his coach and handed him the ball.
Harbaugh refused to keep it.
“It was neat, but I went back into the locker room and it’s now in his book bag,” Harbaugh said with a light laugh. “He had a whale of a game. A great game by a quarterback that had a real gem.”
For the player and coach who have now gone to battle together 23 times, Saturday’s win was bigger than the game ball.
Michigan (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) thumped Michigan State (4-6, 2-5) 44-10 in the rivalry game’s biggest blowout since 2002, when the Wolverines won 49-3.
For Patterson, it was a career game at Michigan. The senior threw for 384 yards and four scores on 24-of-33 passing. It was the most yards any Wolverine as thrown for against MSU, surpassing Tom Brady’s 285-yard mark in 1999.
The Ole Miss transfer wishes it wasn’t his last game against the in-state foe.
“I just wish I had two more shots at them,” Patterson said, looking down at his folded hands, during a postgame press conference. “I wish I could’ve started here and had four shots at them, but it was just a lot of fun today.”
As for the game, it didn’t all fall in Michigan’s favor. MSU struck first and did so with a big play to set up the score. Spartan quarterback Brian Lewerke stood tall in the pocket, waiting for Cody White to fully develop his slant route. He was ruled down on the 1 yard line following a review, but the next play was a play-action pass to Max Rosenthal for the easy score.
The Big House began to feel uncomfortable. MSU was doing something it had not done much in 2019: throwing the ball with high success as Lewerke started 4-of-6 for 49 yards and a score.
Michigan didn’t wait long to answer.
Patterson came out slinging it, hitting Nico Collins for a large gain and then Donovan Peoples-Jones for a screen play that ended with a late hit. Another completion to Ronnie Bell got the Wolverines to the MSU 3, where Hassan Haskins finished off the drive with a 2-yard jolt out of the wildcat formation.
To that point, the game was clean. That changed as unsportsmanlike penalties were handed out to both teams on MSU’s next offensive possession. One of the calls negated a large MSU gain and ultimately led to another punt.
After an MSU punt pinned Michigan deep, Patterson had his back to his own end zone. The senior needed a play on a third down to avoid potential disaster. He found Peoples-Jones at the sticks for a first down.
It was like the offense was shot out of a catapult from there.
Patterson hit Ronnie Bell for two more completions, Nico Collins drew a pass interference, getting Michigan inside the 5 of MSU. It led to a Patterson play-action pass to a wide open Nick Eubanks in the end zone.
It felt like the offensive scheme Josh Gattis had been drawing up since Week 1 was closer to becoming a masterpiece.
“It has been a lot of work,” Patterson said on learning the offensive scheme, which started coming together in recent weeks. “We had all spring and summer to get better at it but you don’t really know until you get into a game situation. It was just a matter of getting better every week and building off our mistakes.”
It just kept coming together. After an underthrown interception from Lewerke to Ambry Thomas of Michigan, the Wolverines drove the dagger deeper. Patterson hit Peoples-Jones on the delayed screen, he slipped past a defender and ran into the end zone ending with his Paul Bunyan pose he showed a season ago in East Lansing.
For the first time in a long time with this rivalry, it felt like Michigan could do whatever it wanted in this game.
Khaleke Hudson flattened Cody White on the next possession. Players with winged helmets continued to wave their arms in an upward motion to get the crowd into it. After getting a field goal, MSU hurt itself again by kicking it out of bounds while trailing 24-10.
It was like the floor was about to give and MSU wouldn’t land upright.
The start of the fourth quarter proved that true.
Hudson blocked a punt and on the next play, Patterson hit Collins for a 22-yard slant route touchdown. An interception from Levert Hill came soon after. Michigan State’s Jacub Panasiuk was ejected from the game for a late hit.
Senior Josh Metellus let everyone know he didn’t agree with how MSU played football on Saturday.
“I feel like we are way more classier than them. I feel like they tried to take it to a level that wasn’t playing football,” Metellus said. “We play football over here. I don’t know what they do over there. We play football and it showed today.”
Nearing the end of the game, Michigan didn’t let off the gas petal either. With 2:33 left to play, Patterson found Cornileus Johnson left all alone up the left sideline, as he scampered into the end zone for a 39-yard score. It was the first of his career.
Patterson said the play was designed.
“We wanted to go out there and score as many points as we could,” Patterson said. “That play was designed to end up like that.”
Most plays the Wolverines designed worked for the entire game. It was never close, which is the way many viewed it.
Four of the five total touchdowns for the Wolverines went through Patterson’s passes. He tossed the ball for the most yards anyone that has worn the maize and blue before him.
Now, he’ll find that ball in his backpack. He can keep it forever.