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Season In Review: The Best Performances By Each Offensive Position Group

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Junior quarterback Shea Patterson’s 65.1 completion percentage is the fourth best in the Big Ten.

Per Kjeldsen

With the regular-season now complete, we’ve decided to take a look back at the best performances by each of Michigan’s offensive position groups from the 2018 campaign.

The main factors that were taken into consideration were how each unit performed as a whole in specific games, and the level of competition it posted its best statistics against.

Quarterback

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Junior quarterback finished the regular-season with a 21-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Per Kjeldsen

While looking back at junior quarterback Shea Patterson’s game-by-game statistics, there really wasn’t a lone contest where his numbers jumped off the page.

The junior consistently put together solid performances week after week, but again, never had a showing where he posted eye-popping numbers.

With that in mind, the Oct. 20 showdown at Michigan State gets the nod here as being his best performance.

He only completed 14 of his 25 passes (56 percent) for 212 yards with two touchdowns and no picks, but made crucial plays when Michigan needed it most.

Patterson got the scoring started against MSU on the first play of the second quarter, with a six-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Nico Collins that gave the Wolverines a 7-0 lead.

He tossed one other score on the day, and it may have been the most impactful touchdown he threw all season.

After the Spartans had tied the game at 7-7 in the midst of a driving rainstorm, Michigan looked to regain the lead late in the third quarter.

The rain let up with 2:34 remaining in the frame, and that’s when Patterson took a shotgun snap deep in his own territory. He tossed the ball down the right sideline to sophomore receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who was being single-covered and had a step on sophomore cornerback Tre Person.

The ball floated perfectly into Peoples-Jones’ arms at the U-M 46-yard line, and from there he waltzed into the end zone after avoiding a shoestring tackle attempt by Person.

The touchdown was the game-winning score for U-M en route to a 21-7 win, and marked the first time the Wolverines had beaten a ranked team (MSU was No. 24) on the road since 2006.

What made Patterson’s performance so impressive, though, weren’t necessarily the numbers he posted, but the grit and toughness he showed.

Last season’s Michigan team likely would have folded in the third quarter once MSU capitalized with a touchdown off the U-M turnover, but the junior signal-caller held everyone together.

This was best exemplified by defensive coordinator Don Brown in November when he revealed that Patterson had insisted to the U-M defense in the third quarter he would make up for the Wolverine fumble MSU eventually scored on, if they simply stop the Spartan offense and get him the ball back.

The leadership and mental toughness the junior possessed were attributes that had been missing from the position last year.

Running Back

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Senior Karan Higdon became the first Michigan running back to run for 1,000 yards since Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 1,041 in 2011.

Per Kjeldsen

Senior running back Karan Higdon is obviously the headliner here.

Considering he eclipsed the century mark eight different times this season, there are obviously plenty of games to choose from for this category, but we ultimately settled on the 42-7 win over Penn State on Nov. 3.

Higdon carried 20 times for 132 yards and one touchdown, and while those numbers are obviously impressive, his best statistic of the game was that he averaged 6.6 yards per carry (his third highest of the season).

It should also be noted that junior Chris Evans had his fourth highest rushing output of 2018 as well, carrying 12 times for 57 yards and a touchdown, while averaging 4.8 yards per touch.

Evans was also a factor in the receiving game, hauling in three grabs for 30 yards.

But again, Higdon stole the show when he set the tone on Michigan’s first drive of the afternoon, ripping off a 50-yard run that put the Wolverine offense at the PSU 15-yard line (the drive was capped off with a Patterson rushing score).

The two touchdowns by Higdon and Evans also put exclamation points on what wound up being a statement victory over the No. 14 Nittany Lions.

The senior’s came from four yards out at the 9:49 mark of the fourth quarter to make the score 35-0, while Evans’ occurred from a yard out just two minutes of game time later, making the score 42-0.

Again, there were several candidates for this category, but we ultimately settled on the Penn State contest, with a big reason being that the Nittany Lion defense finished the regular-season 37th nationally, and yet Higdon and company had no problem gashing them all afternoon long.

Wide Receiver

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Sophomore wideout Nico Collins’ 552 receiving yards lead the team.

Per Kjeldsen

Lost in the shuffle of the atrocious defensive effort in the 62-39 loss at Ohio State on Nov. 24 was the fact that both Collins and Peoples-Jones had pretty good games.

Throughout the year, one or the other would often shine in contests, but seldom both at the same time.

The two, however, combined for 11 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns against the Buckeyes, with freshman Ronnie Bell and redshirt freshmen Tarik Black and Oliver Martin chipping in another 38 yards.

In a game where numerous Wolverines played their worst game of the year, Collins was the bright spot of the entire team.

He hauled in four grabs for a career-high 91 yards and caught two touchdown passes, while averaging 22.8 yards per reception.

His first score came with only 48 seconds remaining in the second quarter, when he reeled in a beautifully-thrown ball from Patterson along the edge of the end zone, in which he had to completely readjust his body with redshirt junior cornerback Kendall Sheffield draped all over him.

Collins’ second score came from 12 yards out early in the fourth quarter when he was once again being blanketed by Sheffield, but used his 6-4 stature perfectly to go up and high point the ball while the redshirt junior had his back to the play.

Again, on a day where most of the U-M players underperformed mightily, Collins and Peoples-Jones appeared to be up to the challenge.

Tight End

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Redshirt sophomore tight end Nick Eubanks’ 157 receiving yards are the fourth most on the team.

Per Kjeldsen

Redshirt junior Zach Gentry’s two best performances of the season came against Maryland and SMU when he hauled in 112 and 95 yards, respectively, but we chose the Nov. 17 Indiana affair for this category because of what the unit accomplished as a whole.

Gentry reeled in 83 yards on just two catches against the Hoosiers, while redshirt sophomore Nick Eubanks caught the most important pass of his collegiate tenure.

With Michigan trailing 10-9 and 4:51 to play until halftime, Patterson took a snap from the IU 41-yard line and scanned the field for an open man.

He fired a laser to a wide open Eubanks at the 20-yard line, who wound up running untouched into the end zone to give the Wolverines a 15-10 lead (the two-point conversion failed).

The 41-yard score was actually the first touchdown of Eubanks’ career, and though it was his only catch of the game, marked his second highest receiving output of 2018 (second only to the 45 he had against Northwestern).

Michigan’s trio of tight ends (Gentry, Eubanks and junior Sean McKeon) combined for 125 yards against the Hoosiers, and saw the former two finish as U-M’s two leading receivers in the 31-20 win.

Offensive Line

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Fifth-year senior right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty is the only offensive line starter who will be graduating at season’s end.

Per Kjeldsen

Michigan’s offensive line was still very much a work in progress when it headed into the Oct. 13 showdown with No. 15 Wisconsin.

The unit had been abused at Notre Dame in the season-opener, and although it had gradually gotten better over the next month or so, hadn’t faced any other significant tests prior to its meeting with the Badgers.

In what was expected to be a hard-nosed, grind-it-out affair among two pounding offenses, U-M’s offensive line paved the way for 320 rushing yards, three scores and a 6.7-yard per carry average (its second highest of the season).

The 320 rushing yards were Michigan’s most against a ranked foe since compiling 341 at No. 19 Illinois in a 35-31 win in 2000.

Higdon led the way against Wisconsin with 105 yards and Patterson chipped in 90 of his own, while redshirt freshman quarterback Dylan McCaffrey even ripped off a 44-yard scoring run.

The performance proved the offensive line had turned a corner under first-year position coach Ed Warinner, and was finally starting to round into a formidable group.

No, Wisconsin’s front seven wasn’t as good as originally expected (57th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game), but still featured one of the nation’s best linebacking units made up of fifth-year seniors T.J. Edwards, Andrew Van Ginkel and Ryan Connelly, and redshirt juniors Zack Baun and Chris Orr.

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