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Offensive Breakdown: MSU vs. Western Michigan

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The Spartans offense woke up in a big way against Western Michigan with improvement across the board, but what are the biggest takeaways?

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

After the first game of the season it would be fair to wonder how many games the Michigan State Spartans could win without any input from the offense at all. However, after Saturday night’s win, there are major signs of offensive life.

The Spartans put up an impressive 51 points against the Western Michigan Broncos, putting the game away before halftime. They saw production from all three levels of the offense. Most importantly, there are reasons to believe it could translate to the rest of the season.

Quarterback

This was undoubtedly the Brian Lewerke’s best game since the Washington State bowl game in 2017.

The senior threw for 314 yards with three touchdowns and only one interception. As importantly, he didn’t just rely on one receiver or a few big plays to inflate stats. While the Broncos defense is far from the best he will face all year, it was crucial to see Lewerke take full control of the offense on long, successful drives.

One thing missing from Lewerke’s performance was his rushing attack. The athletic quarterback was only credited with one rush for a single yard.

Lewerke will face a much more difficult defense in Arizona State. While the Sun Devils haven’t faced much of a test so far this year, they have so far been one of the best defenses in the country. Last year they held Lewerke to only one touchdown with an interception despite throwing for over 300 yards.

Although there is no reason to believe there is any quarterback competition, it was interesting to note that Rocky Lombardi didn’t see any playing time, even in running situations.

Running Backs

The biggest takeaway from Saturday’s win was the emergence of Elijah Collins at running back.

A redshirt freshman, Collins led the team with 192 yards on 17 rushes for an astounding 11.3 yards-per. In a backfield still looking for a starter, Collins may have cemented his spot atop the depth chart.

If Collins is going to produce at even a high fraction of what he did against Western, the Spartans offense should have a balance it missed all of last season.

Collins showed big-play ability on a 58-yard run, but it was his consistency that helped break the Broncos defense.

Like Lewerke, Collins will face increasingly difficult defenses as the season goes on. He still doesn’t look like a finished product, but if he can continue to grow into the offense, the Spartans will likely have one of the most balanced attacks in the Big Ten.

In addition to Collins, the Spartans used Anthony Williams Jr., Connor Heyward, La’Darius Jefferson and Alante Thomas out of the backfield. Thomas’ play came mostly in mop-up time late in the game, but the senior took advantage with a touchdown run. Jefferson is clearly taking the role as the short-yardage back, getting two goal-line touchdowns.

Offensive Line

There was blocking!

Really, almost anything would have been an improvement on last week. But the line actually looked strong this week. With Kevin Jarvis, Luke Campbell, Matt Allen, Matt Carrick and Jordan Reid lining up left to right, the Spartans scored on three straight offensive drives to start the game.

The big lead also allowed the Spartans to rotate lineman, giving experience to young players. Last year, the majority of the line changes came due to injury, making this a welcome change.

Overall, the Spartans line allowed for 582 total yards with 251 on the ground. As always, the biggest key for the line is health, which will be a question going forward. But there play Saturday can’t be understated.