COLUMBIA – Quarterback Chase Patton was in shock.
He had just scored for the first time. But it was not through the air. He had used his legs, not his arm. He kept the ball on an option play after seeing a defender cheat toward the running back. Eighteen yards later, he found himself in the end zone, getting mobbed by his teammates.
“I would have never thought my first touchdown would have been a rushing touchdown,” Patton said.
Patton had just completed the first drive and the first passes of his collegiate career. The understudy had taken a few snaps here and there, but he hadn’t led the team down the field. He had waited for this moment after hours of rehearsal on the practice field.
“It feels good to get some reward out of this,” Patton said.
The featured star, quarterback Chase Daniel, made sure Patton got his share of attention. Daniel mentioned Patton before answering questions after the game.
“We really wanted to get him in a lot earlier,” Daniel said. “I’m so happy for him that he finally got his touchdown.”
Coach Gary Pinkel wanted to replace Daniel with Patton earlier in the game, but Western Michigan cut lead in half – from 28 to 14 points — early in the fourth quarter.
But Patton got his chance after Daniel rushed for a 35-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach. With another 39-yard run in the first quarter, Daniel had the Tigers’ two longest runs of the game.
Daniel’s runs reminded Pinkel of another MU quarterback.
“Maybe he’s trying to be like Brad Smith,” he said.
Daniel wasn’t as sharp through the air, making uncharacteristic mistakes, including two interceptions. He finished 27-for-46 with 328 yards and two touchdowns.
His interception in the second quarter cost him a chance to break a NCAA record: consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception. Former Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer set the mark with 271 consecutive attempts. Daniel’s streak stopped at 254 attempts.
At first, Pinkel didn’t blame Daniel for his errant passes. He got laughs by pointing his finger at the media.
“I don’t have to hear about Chase throwing interceptions any more. …That was the media’s fault,” Pinkel said. “You guys have to take responsibility for that. And I know you won’t.”
It would have been notable for Daniel to set the record against Western Michigan, a team used to terrorizing opposing quarterbacks. Last season, the Broncos led the nation in interceptions and sacks per game. The Broncos tried to continue the trend Saturday. C.J. Wilson returned Daniel’s second interception 46 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Always a perfectionist, Daniel wasn’t happy with his performance.
“I didn’t play very well at all,” he said. “Two interceptions. Both throws were ignorant on my part. But, hey, what can you do? We won.”
The Tigers did win, gaining 619 yards of total offense. And after two games when large leads dwindled in the fourth quarter, they didn’t give the Broncos a chance.
Instead, they gave Patton a chance. He took it and finished it off by himself. He got swarmed in the end zone and stood there, soaking in adulation from his teammates and hometown crowd.