By the time the final whistle blew, Michigan State’s starting quarterback had been benched and the star wide receiver was likely lost for the rest of the season.
Fresh off of their upset win over Penn State, the Michigan State Spartans fell flat against the Michigan Wolverines. MSU lost its third game of the year, going down 21-7 to its rival at Spartan Stadium. Possibly even more importantly, the offense may have lost their two most important players under very different circumstances.
For most of the game, the Spartans left open the possibility of another come-from-behind win over a top-10 team. After forcing a punt on the first Michigan drive of the game, LJ Scott returned from injury for MSU with back-to-back successful plays to start game.
The drive was eventually stopped, however, and after a punt the entire game came to a stop. With inclement weather approaching, the game went into a delay that would last over an hour.
When teams finally did return to the field, Michigan had the ball and started a drive that would lead to the first points of the game. Shea Patterson found Nico Collins on the first play of the second quarter for a touchdown in the back of the end zone.
Things went from bad to worse for MSU in the second quarter. After coming in motion, wide receiver Felton Davis III fell to the ground at the snap of the ball. The star player wasn’t touched when he went down, but immediately grabbed at his left calf. Later in the game Fox Sports announced that it was a torn achilles tendon. The injury will almost certainly end the senior’s season.
Both offenses failed to do much of anything for the remainder of the first half. Michigan wasted it’s one potentially successful drive with a badly missed 36-yard field goal.
Things started looking better for the Spartans in the third quarter. Defensive lineman Raequan Williams forced a fumble, recovered by Brandon Bouyer-Randle at the Michigan seven yard line.
Michigan State cashed in on the turnover two plays later, using a trick play to get the job done. In a play resembling the “Philly Special,” made famous by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl, Darrell Stewart Jr. found Brian Lewerke for a touchdown.
A turnover flipped the field, and it opened up the playbook for @MSU_Football.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 20, 2018
QBs catching TDs is the new wave in @B1Gfootball this season, and @brianlewerke14 hauls in the Sparty Special: pic.twitter.com/HZdkMpYwlH
Michigan had an opportunity to respond, recovering a fumbled punt return from Shakur Brown in MSU territory. However, the Wolverines again put the ball on the ground, turning it over to the Spartans at the MSU 23.
The game started to spiral shortly after that for the Spartans. The next two drives went for a combined -8 yards. Michigan finally capitalized, using a 79-yard touchdown pass from Patterson to Donovan Peoples-Jones to take a 14-7 lead.
Another MSU drive, netting 0 total yards, turned into a punt. This time it was a slow, drawn-out Michigan drive that all but put a nail in the coffin. The 13-play, 84-yard drive ended in a Ben Mason five-yard touchdown run.
Lewerke returned to the field for what would be his final drive of the game. After another three-and-out, the Spartans were forced to punt. When the offense returned to the field for their next drive, backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi was on the field. Lewerke’s final stat-line was an abysmal 5-25 for 66 yards, averaging only 2.6 yards. It was undoubtedly Lewerke’s worst performance in a season that hasn’t seen many strong ones.
There were reports that Lewerke was playing the game injured. However, even if that were the case, the Spartans coaching staff stuck with him until the next to last drive of the game. Whether it was because of an injury or just poor play, they finally turned to the freshman.
Lombardi was able to move the offense down the field, reaching the Michigan 24. Statistically, Lombardi was only 1-2 through the air, but the drive drew four straight Michigan penalties. The Spartans finally stalled after sacks on third and fourth down. The Wolverines offense needed only one first down before being able to end the game in victory formation.
Michigan State finished with only 94 total yards on offense, 79 through the air and 15 on the ground.
The questions for Michigan State are now bigger than at any point in the season. The starting quarterback is officially in question and with Davis injured, the weapons are depleted. On top of losing to its biggest rival, the loss could cost MSU much more down the road.
The Spartans are now 4-3 (2-2). They return to the field next week, staying in East Lansing to host the Purdue Boilermakers.