ORONO, Maine — Monday is a day off for the University of Maine football team.
But for junior cornerback Manny Patterson, it is the first day of his preparation for the next game.
Patterson, who earned a spot on the All-Colonial Athletic Association first team, is watching video of his upcoming opponent. It’s one of the reasons he is the leader among all players at the 124 Football Championship Subdivision schools with 22 pass breakups.
Not only is he watching the tendencies of the other team’s receivers, particularly the one he will be lined up against in man-to-man coverage, he is analyzing the opponent’s trends and formations.
Patterson will be matched up against the other team’s best receiver again on Saturday when the 12th-ranked and No. 7 seed Black Bears (10-3) face fourth-ranked No. 2 seed Eastern Washington (11-2) at Cheney, Washington.
The 5-foot-10, 181-pound Baltimore native is looking for any little edge he can gain by reading the quarterback’s habits and gauging his arm and what kinds of throws he likes to make.
Does he have a go-to receiver? Does he have a strong arm or is he more of an accurate, touch passer?
Patterson said early in the week he homes in on the opponent’s first- and second-down tendencies.
“That’s what we focus on in practice,” explained Patterson, who has two interceptions and is second in the country in passes defended (1.8 per game), a statistic that combines pass breakups and interceptions and divides them by games played.
In the middle of the week, the video study moves to third downs.
“It’s a progression,” said Patterson, whose time spent in the video room has been the biggest reason for his overall improvement over the years.
“I know how to look at tendencies and what offensive coordinators like to do in certain formations, downs and situations,” Patterson said. “I know how to prepare and how to be in position (to make a play).”
“He does an unbelievable job preparing and getting ready for the game,” UMaine defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman said. “He studies film, he knows what to expect and he takes it to the field. His reaction is excellent.”
In UMaine’s 55-27 playoff victory over Jacksonville State, Patterson limited first-team All-America wide receiver Josh Pearson to four catches for 62 yards and no touchdowns. Pearson led the FCS with 17 touchdown receptions.
“He erases half the field,” Hetherman said. “He makes my life easier.”
In the Black Bears’ 23-18 victory at Weber State on Dec. 7, he held speedster Rashid Shaheed to 19 yards on five catches (3.8 yards per catch). Shaheed had been averaging 11.75 yards per catch.
“There is no doubt Manny was the best corner in the conference and is one of the best in the country,” UMaine senior co-captain Drew Belcher said. “He’s very smart and very fast. He can defend anyone in the country. I’ve really never seen him get beat.”
Sophomore wide receiver Andre Miller, who goes against Patterson in practice, said he is instinctive and patient.
“A lot of times, you give a corner one move and then you go,” Miller said. “With Manny, you have to make a couple of moves just to even get off the line of scrimmage.”
Another key aspect of a defensive back’s world is his ability to gauge what game officials will allow them to do. They must decipher what officials will consider pass interference in a given game.
“I’ll watch our first series on offense and see what the other team does against our receivers. If they allow them to be pretty physical, I’ll say to myself, ‘OK, they’re going to let us play today,” Patterson said.
He said most officials are fair and also will explain why they called a certain penalty.
“They’ll tell you if you that if you had your head turned around (toward the quarterback), they wouldn’t have thrown the flag. Or they’ll say you can’t touch the receiver when the ball is in the air.”
Patterson, who has been involved in 45 tackles this season, said he is enjoying UMaine’s magical run this season and hopes it continues.
“Just to be able to play this late into the year and to have the opportunity to move on (to the national championship game) … I’m definitely happy,” Patterson said.