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Spartans hold off late surge by the Chippewas

Nothing comes easy in East Lansing

Central Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans made their way home for the first time in a month to close out their non-conference schedule against the Central Michigan Chippewas. The Spartans dominated defensively and did enough on offense to put the game away early in the second half, scoring 31 straight points and giving themselves a commanding 28 point lead.

Although, it didn’t stop the Chippewas from making things interesting in the fourth quarter. “Well as I continue to say, nothing’s ever easy. You get ahead a little bit, think things are going pretty well and then it gets interesting, but that’s football for you,” said Dantonio in reference to CMU’s late rally.

Central Michigan scored on three straight drives during the fourth quarter. It started with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Lazzaro to Julian Hicks, a field goal, and then a option double pass where the receiver was wide open in the end zone. The Spartan defense was undoubtedly the best unit out there for three quarters, but they seemed to lose focus during the final 12 minutes or so.

“Definitely got to be sharper in the fourth quarter,” said Joe Bachie. “Coach Tressel when we got to halftime said 30 more minutes of domination and we might have only had 15-20 minutes of domination and against a team that are in it a little more you know those are the lapse we can’t have that’s going to lead to a loss or something. We have to stay focused, that’s on us, we’ll work on it this week.”

Heading into today’s game the Spartans boasted the number one rushing defense in the nation and held CMU to 63 yards on the ground. MSU has yet to allow 100 yards rushing by an opponent or individual.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Offensively, the Spartans started off slow. They were unable to put any points on the board until early in the second quarter. Their first drive stalled out due to a false start penalty and they followed it up with an interception thrown by Brian Lewerke. According to him, the CMU defensive backs may have gotten away with a little too much contact.

“Their DBs were holding a lot. They should have called more. I think pass interference penalties even more then they did. I think the interception was 100% pass interference. The guy grabbed Felton, Felton had him beat by a yard, the guy grabbed him and pulled himself through to pick the ball off,” said Brian Lewerke. “I think the ball was in a decent spot, maybe I could have been a little further in front I guess but it’s a missed call maybe. It was a good decision to go there like Coach Warner said I think, but just obviously got to eliminate those no matter what happens.”

Brian Lewerke threw for 185 yards, completed 64% of his passes, and ran for two touchdowns. He’s had a pretty good season up to this point but has struggled with turnovers.

Last year, Lewerke threw seven total interceptions. Through four games in 2018 he’s already up to five (his seven turnovers are the most in the Big Ten).

While the running game saw improvements and had a nice day this Spartan team will still need Lewerke at the top of his game if they want to compete for a Big Ten Championship — which means cutting those turnovers in half.

Michigan State running back La’Darius Jefferson rushed for 56 yards against CMU and scored his first career touchdown as a Spartan. It’s just the second time all season a MSU running back has reached the 50-yard mark. The former quarterback runs hard and has the ability to understand and see the field exceptionally well.

“La’Darius is a big back. He’s only played tailback for a couple months. He’s been a quarterback for all his life really, and has been a very successful quarterback running the football,” said Coach Mark Dantonio. “He has good vision, keeps his shoulders square, and has a low center of gravity for a big guy. He’s almost 230 pounds and he’s a very positive guy. I think conceptually because he was a quarterback he understands things.”

The MSU rushing attack ran for 160 yards and finished with four touchdowns. Even when LJ Scott is healthy the Spartans seem unable to find a feature back. Dantonio is aware of their obvious depth at the position and is inclined to use all the talent he has available to him. Yet another reason why MSU fans have seen him alternating four different guys in the backfield since the LJ injury (Scott was splitting some carries with Heyward prior to injuring his ankle). But, it was all apart of the game plan according to offensive coordinator Dave Warner, who told us run concepts were definitely a big emphasis at practice all week.

“Obviously it has been a situation where in the first couple of weeks where we had nothing running as well as we needed to. It has been an emphasis and wanted to commit this game to running it and I think we did. I think we did a decent job. I think our guys up front got some movement. I think our backs ran with more purpose and I think that is something to build on. By no means are we there yet with the run game but it’s a step in the right direction so we need to keep going that direction.”

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Injury Notes

  • Darrell Stewart Jr (WR), Kevin Jarvis (RG), and Collin Lucas (FB), Jalen Nailor (WR), and Cam Chambers (WR) did not dress for today’s game.
  • Spartan receiver Cody White will be out several weeks with a broken hand after leaving the game late in the second quarter. Dantonio expects him back before the season is over.