It’s Ohio State week for the Michigan State Spartans, which means anything can happen – which is par for the course at this point for the MSU offense.
After a second consecutive win, beating Maryland on the road 24-3, the Spartans may not be settled offensively, but they are finding a way to score. Facing the Ohio State Buckeyes this Saturday, the MSU offense will need to score early and often. But with a constant back-and-forth between the starting lineup and the injury report, the Spartans will need to find some semblance of an offensive attack to keep up with a high-flying OSU team.
However, the way this year is going, who is to say it can’t happen?
Brian Lewerke will enter Saturday’s game as the starter. Lewerke returned to action last week against Maryland after missing the Purdue game.
Against Maryland, Lewerke was clearly playing the role of game manager. He completed only 11 passes on 20 attempts for 87 yards. His accuracy wasn’t as bad as his previous start against Michigan, but it was still anything but consistent. The junior quarterback missed open receivers for most of the game, but did go through a stretch in the third quarter where he was able to find his receivers with nearly perfect passes.
Even though Lewerke is starting, he may be on a a short leash. The teams that have given Ohio State the best games have done so by throwing for well over 200 yards. Lewerke hasn’t surpassed the 200 yard mark since beating Penn State.
If the Spartans find themselves in an early hole, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Rocky Lombardi put into the game. the redshirt freshman saw action against Maryland, although head coach Mark Dantonio explained that Lombardi’s playing time was part of the pregame plan, not a reflection of how Lewerke was playing. Lombardi isn’t a finished product, but if MSU needs to score quickly, he is almost certainly the team’s best bet.
In a season that has been completely unpredictable, the offensive output last week may have been most surprising. Despite Cody White returning to the team from injury and LJ Scott missing another game after again getting hurt against Purdue, the Spartans relied on a dominant running game to beat Maryland.
For the first time all year, MSU saw a running back go over 100 yards – Connor Heyward went for 157 with 80 coming on one play.
This week should be a definitive sign for Scott’s health. If the Ohio native isn’t ready to go this week, Dantonio has hinted that the team may look to redshirt the senior, giving him another year of eligibility. However, if he plays this week – or any other week this season – he loses the ability to redshirt.
White made a difference in his first game back from a hand injury, catching a 24-yard pass in the first quarter. However, he still didn’t look fully healthy, dropping a pass later in the game that he almost certainly would have caught with ease before the injury. A healthy White is crucial for the Spartans to have any chance against Ohio State. They will need someone with his playmaking ability, spreading the already weak secondary even thinner.
Laress Nelson missed his fourth consecutive game and there is no sign yet that he will return. Darrell Stewart Jr. has stepped into the top-two receiver spot and is dependable, even if he’s not electric. The ball will need to be spread around this weekend, so Stewart will likely get multiple targets.
There is no reason why, but the offensive line has gotten better over the last two weeks despite more injuries every game.
The line was as strong as ever last week, and has found ways to create running lanes. They will never be a dominant line this season, but it’s a huge improvement over the line from the first quarter of the season.
Matt Allen, Kevin Jarvis and David Beedle all appeared on the injury report this week.