Hooray! The Michigan State Spartans remembered how to play football this week and got back on track against the Maryland Terrapins in a snowy, rainy, sleety game. The Spartans, led by LJ Scott with 147 yards, ran the ball down Maryland’s collective throat, and walked away with a 17-7 win and an 8-3 record.
Michigan State gashed the porous Maryland rushing defense for 271 yards on the ground. On the other side of the ball, the Spartans held the Terps to just 204 total yards. It’s a pretty good day when your team has more rushing yards than your opponent has total yards, right?
But where in the world has the passing game been these past two weeks? The Spartans finished with a mere 20 yards passing in this contest, and only two completions. Of course, the elements played a big factor and the MSU players dropped a few balls, but Brian Lewerke has now put in two duds in a row.
The 20 yards passing are the lowest for a Michigan State quarterback since 1987 (Bobby McAllister, 13 yards). The two completions were the lowest Spartans total since 1988 (McAllister and Dan Enos combined for one completion against Florida State). Over his last two games, Lewerke has completed just 20 of 50 attempts (40 percent) for 151 yards, zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a quarterback rating of 47.9.
This week’s performance followed up last week’s horrid effort in Columbus, where Lewerke went 18 for 36 for 131 yards, zero scores and two picks. Lewerke looked lost against a team that completely overmatched the Spartans, but the whole team did in general.
It’s not all his fault, though. The protection from his young offensive line must be better. Lewerke was sacked three times against Ohio State, and running for his life on pretty much every other throw. He wasn’t sacked at all against Maryland, but the team didn’t opt to throw it very often.
Lewerke did flash his running ability for the first time in a few games. He ran in a nifty 25-yard touchdown dash on a read option keeper in the second quarter and finished with 63 yards on just five attempts (12.6 yards per carry). Lewerke is now at 433 yards rushing on the season, which is second on the team, only behind Scott’s 731 yards.
Remember, these past two weeks of bad play from the Spartans’ signal caller are on the heels of back-to-back 400-yard performances. He was only the third player in the Big Ten conference in the last 20 years to accomplish such a feat. Lewerke broke the single game passing record for the Spartans with 445 yards against Northwestern.
But before those two games against Northwestern and Penn State, Lewerke had failed to reach 200 yards passing in the three prior contests. So, is Lewerke a peaks and valleys player, or was it just a combination of bad luck having to go into a buzzsaw in the Horseshoe and then having to try to throw in a game where there were high winds, rain and snow? I’m not sure yet.
I still have faith in Lewerke. Remember, the kid is only a sophomore and he should immensely improve during the next two seasons. He has led MSU to a bounce back season where the Spartans can completely flip their 2016 season and earn 10 wins with a win against Rutgers and a bowl victory.
With that said, the Spartans need more out of their QB1. Lewerke needs to step up and lead his team by completing passes, making good decisions and using his legs to make plays when necessary.
What are you thoughts on Lewerke’s last couple of performances? Comment below.