Cedric Patterson became a big-play machine for Rice football down the stretch, securing the award for 2021 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.
Two days after the Early Signing Period opened last December, Rice football added one last piece to its wintertime haul: Cedric Patterson. The New Mexico transfer and Crosby, Tx native was coming back to the Lone Star state after seeing sparing usage out West.
He entered what appeared to be a crowded Rice receiving room, somewhat tempering early expectations. The athletic profile was intriguing. The highlight plays were there. How quickly would Patterson be assimilated into the offense? That was the question at hand.
Patterson took full advantage of spring ball, doing all he could to master the complicated Rice offense. He was tucked behind the likes of Bradley Rozner, Jake Bailey and August Pitre on the depth chart, but he wasn’t going unnoticed. Rozner praised his speed during fall media days, calling Patterson “a vertical threat that can stop on a dime.” It turns out, Rozner was right.
After catching four passes in his first three games with Rice, Patterson took the top off the Texas Southern on a 73-yard bomb on the Owls’ first play from scrimmage. Patterson hadn’t recorded 73 yards in a collegiate game coming into that Saturday.
Patterson was oozing confidence following his breakout game. “I feel like everything’s starting to click now,” he said of the offense as a whole. “We’ve been learning and practicing and grinding in these first three weeks and now we’ve got everything in order. We’re finding our identity and who we are. The sky’s the limit.”
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There would be one more hiccup, but excluding a shutout on the road against UTSA and a mere 21-point outing against Western Kentucky, the Rice offense would amass at least 24 points in seven of their final nine games. And Patterson’s eruption against Texas Southern proved to just a sliver of the impact he would bring to the offense as the season progressed.
Patterson took a reverse 38-yards for a touchdown the following week against Southern Miss. He scored touchdowns in four of the Owls’ final five games, including the game-winning score against Louisiana Tech, his second trip to the endzone that afternoon. By season’s end, Patterson had more touchdowns than any Rice Owl not named Jordan Myers.
Through it all, he kept a quiet, humble demeanor as he worked to improve his game. It was in the days leading up to the finale against Louisiana Tech that he told the assembled media at a midweek press conference that he was “really trying to just know the playbook like I know my own name,” reasoning that “when you can go out there and play fast and play confidence, you’re pretty much unstoppable.”
Unstoppable. That’s what it started to feel like when Patterson hauled in a pass with grass in front of him. The speed was always evident, but his maturation as a student of the game who knew where he was supposed to be and how to best execute his responsibility on any given play began to set him apart.
When Jake Bailey went down against UTEP and Myers was banged up down the stretch, it was Patterson asked to be the guy who carried the passing game. And despite being tasked with catching passes from a myriad of different quarterbacks, Patterson was able to grab the proverbial baton and run with it.
Patterson embraced every moment. “We knew it was going to be on us,” he said of the receiving corps when the Owls entered the fourth quarter facing a double-digit deficit. “We don’t want it to be easy,” he continued. “We like it being exciting. It was fun, a test of our character, a test of our will. This is what we work for.”
As if it wasn’t obvious enough that Patterson welcomed the pressure. Patterson would close out his discussion of adversity like this: “We eat that for breakfast.”
Big moments. Big plays. All smiles. Cedric Patterson inked his name onto the Rice football depth chart and more than earned this year’s honors as the 2021 Rice Football Offensive Newcomer of the Year.