EAST LANSING — Michigan State is fresh off a 23-13 victory over Purdue. MSU extended their school-record winning streak over Purdue with its eighth consecutive victory (a team Mark Dantonio remains undefeated against). The Spartans have been fighting an uphill battle for what seems like an entire year due to all their injuries on offense, including starting quarterback Brian Lewerke.
MSU was forced to go with redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi, who played a big part in ruining the Boilermakers four game win streak.
The young quarterback was fired up on and off the field, which gave the Spartans the spark they needed. He finished with 318 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Prior to playing Purdue, MSU had thrown at least one interception in every contest other than Michigan.
Mark Dantonio thought he played very well, but says the Spartans “just run their system.” He may cater to certain skill sets, but they have certain strategies every week — something they plan on sticking with.
Regardless of who starts, the Spartans will need a lot from the guy under center when Michigan State travels to Maryland this weekend. It’ll be the 10th meeting between these two schools with the Spartans leading the all-time series, 7-2.
The Spartans are looking for their 700th win in school history on Saturday. MSU is currently 699-456-44 (.601) and will be playing in their 1,200th game all-time. If Michigan State beats Maryland they would become the 27th university in the FBS to reach that milestone.
However, by no means will Maryland be an easy out for the Spartans. Defensively, MSU is back in first place for their run defense, allowing just 77.4 yards per game. They managed to hold Purdue to a season low 62 yards, making it the sixth time this season the Spartans have held opponents under the century mark.
The Terrapins enter this game with some impressive statistics of their own. Senior running back Ty Johnson stands third-all time in terms of all purpose yards for the university (4,140 yards). He ranks fourth in rushing yards with 2,597.
Additionally, Javon Leake became the first player to ever win the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and Special Teams Player of the Week after his huge game against Illinois. He finished with four touchdowns and 274 all-purpose yards (three rushing, one kickoff). Michigan State’s defense will have their hands full — as always Mark Dantonio looks forward to the challenge.
"This will be another challenge for us as we go away,” said Dantonio. “You look at Maryland and their offensive personnel — they are a very explosive football team right now.”
This past weekend, Maryland racked up 712 yards of offense, their highest total in a single game since 1982. It’s the most by any Big Ten team since the Wolverines reached the mark back in 2013 against Indiana.
Offensively, the Spartans came out of the gates firing last weekend. A lot of fans were happy to see MSU throwing the ball downfield and spreading it out. Rocky Lombardi managed to complete passes to seven different receivers, which includes the Spartan tight ends — who finished with five completions in a single contest. The group had nine receptions on the year before kickoff.
Mark Dantonio and his staff thought “it’s about time.”
“The quarterback makes decisions and goes through his progressions. Just like anybody they are out there and have to get open,” he said.
The biggest question this week will be who is going to start at quarterback. Is Brian Lewerke healthy? Will they continue to go with Lombardi after his performance on Saturday? It seems as though they are in another situation where MSU will have to pick a quarterback (like they’ve had to in the past). Fortunately, for Mark Dantonio this is a good problem to have.
“Rocky did an outstanding job and put himself in a situation where he can be a starter or inserted into the game or whatever it is, but from where I sit, it’s a good problem. I thought he did a very good job in the game and asserted himself and gives us another leader on this football team and every football team needs great leaders, especially at that situation.”
We’ll have to see what happens — it’ll be difficult for this Spartan team to permanently move away from one of their captains at this point in the season, especially the quarterback.