If the Michigan State Spartans thought they had injury issues early in the season, they pale in comparisons to what the team is dealing with this week. There are questions as to who will even be on the field, much less how they will perform.
However, in a game against a Purdue team that has put up big offensive numbers, the Spartans will need to find a way to get points on the board.
Breaking down the Michigan game from the quarterback’s perspective is almost a complete waste of time. Brian Lewerke was dealing with a shoulder injury throughout the game that was at least in part to blame for his horrendous accuracy. His back up, Rocky Lombardi, saw only one full drive that moved the ball almost exclusively through defensive penalties.
Lewerke is reportedly out for Saturday’s game. However, Mark Dantonio and his coaching staff have done an expectedly great job of not giving any hits. If nothing else, this will force Purdue to prepare for two different quarterbacks, even if it is the same offense.
Despite all of his issues, a healthy Lewerke is the better option to steady an offense that is missing some huge weapons.
However, if Lewerke is anywhere near the place he was in to start the Michigan game, it should be Lombardi’s job. The much-heralded recruit doesn’t have much tape at all to hazard a guess as to how he will do, but if nothing else he has the raw talent to be productive if things break his way.
The Purdue defense isn’t exactly known for getting after the quarterback, and teams all season long have had success against the Boilermakers’ secondary. Even during this win-streak, Purdue gives up plenty of big plays through the air if the quarterback can hit an open receiver.
Just as LJ Scott returns to action the Spartans lost arguably their best offensive weapon in Felton Davis III. The senior wide receiver tore his achilles tendon and is done for the year.
The remaining receivers, while talented, are no where near the big play level of Davis. On top of that, almost all of them are struggling with injuries of their own. Cody White, still suffering from a hand injury, is technically questionable for this weekend but seems unlikely to play. The same goes for Laress Nelson.
Darrell Stewart Jr., Jalen Nailor, Cam Chambers and Brandon Sowards are all listed on the injury report as well, but are much more likely to play against Purdue. This group has shown up in big moments so far this season, but they will have to make a few big plays to keep the Spartans going Saturday.
Scott returning made a big difference for the Spartans offense. He is still the only back on the MSU roster who can run between the tackles and gashed the Michigan offense a few times for big plays. Purdue has only allowed a pair of 100 yard rushers so far this season, but Michigan State will likely have a bigger weight load for their star running back than most of Purdue’s previous opponents.
Just as the offensive line seemed to be coming together, they get hit with more injuries. Neither David Beedle nor Matt Allen are expected to play Saturday.
The front line will have a big task on its hands against Purdue. The Boilermakers have a front seven that can clog up running lanes, and Lombardi will almost certainly need a healthy running game to help him get settled. If the line can find a way to give the young quarterback some time, he will at least have a chance to find a rhythm in the passing game as well.
If nothing else, the offensive line needs to avoid any penalties that put the offense behind the sticks. With Purdue almost certain to put up a few touchdowns, the offense can’t be punting deep in their own territory after a three-and-out.
Purdue’s defense is beatable, but the Spartans may need a near perfect game plan. It also doesn’t hurt that the weather is expected to be more than a little difficult. Slowing down the Purdue offense would be a big help in taking pressure off of Lombardi.