EAST LANSING — Michigan State came home from Evanston, Illinois feeling pretty good about themselves, as they should have.
It was a road win against a gritty Northwestern team where the Spartans managed to snap a three-game losing streak against the Wildcats, thanks to their vaunted defense and a much-improved offense.
There’s just one problem. Indiana didn’t care about any of that. Instead, they made fans question the one thing thought to be unquestionable.
The Spartan defense.
Michigan State couldn’t get off the field or stop the Hoosiers from attacking them with short throws. The part of MSU’s team everyone relies on to make plays and save the day was nowhere to be found.
Spartan nation was busy watching their team get picked apart by a redshirt freshmen quarterback in Michael Penix Jr. — who ended up finishing the game 33-for-42 with 286 yards passing and four touchdowns (one rushing and three through the air).
Time of possession (and probably fatigue) started to hurt MSU defensively during the third quarter when they were on the field for 13:05. The offense ran FOUR plays before the start of the fourth.
Yes, you read that correctly. Four.
It was time the offense tasked themselves with holding up their defense or face the backlash of losing to another team MSU had no business losing too.
“Let’s go. We was made for times like this; it’s adversity. One thing you gotta understand about football is, there’s going to be adversity,” said Darrell Stewart when asked about the final drive. “If you think there’s not going to be adversity, you are sadly mistaken.”
It’s true; there is a ton of adversity in football. Unfortunately, if the past couple of seasons are any indication fans didn’t have much reason to believe they’d get the job done.
But as I said earlier this week — the offense needed to work hard to get fans to trust them again.
The Spartan offense needed to show fans they could do it, even if they faced an uphill battle for much of the second half.
And even if it was self-inflicted.
It was time MSU made it known they can still make big plays in big moments.
“He (Lewerke) played outstanding. He made all the plays that you need to make in a football game, really from the onset,” said Dantonio.
Lewerke finished the game 18-for-36, 300 passing yards, and three touchdowns. Twice he led the Spartans down the field in a 2-minute drill and scored.
Once before halftime (a 26-yard pass to Stewart for the touchdown) and another at the end of the game where he helped set up the game-winning field goal. I’ll say it again, we’ve seen the best version of Lewerke when he’s operating out of tempo.
Fans can question some of his throws, but today Lewerke made all the right decisions.
He made plays when it mattered, and most importantly, he never quit.
“It was huge for our offense to have that big drive at the end of the game after we gave up a touchdown. Teams bounce back, the offense bounced back,” said Joe Bachie. “There was ups and downs all game, but the adversity, when it struck, we answered the bell.”
- Brian Lewerke made history tonight throwing for over 6,000 yards and rushing for over 1,000 in his career as a Spartan. The only other quarterback to do it? Drew Stanton.
- Lewerke in 2019: 1,325 yards, ten touchdowns, one interception.
- Darrell Stewart had another big game (5 catches, 117 yards, two touchdowns) and now leads the conference in receptions and yards.
- Matt Seybert was involved in the offense again today. In the last two weeks, he has seven receptions, 71 yards, and three touchdowns.
- The defense finally looked vulnerable, and Indiana took advantage. They hung onto the ball for over thirteen minutes in the third quarter and torched the Spartan defense with their short passing attack. Penix Jr. is the only other quarterback to throw for over 300 yards since former ASU QB Manny Wilkins did it last year.
- There’s some controversy surrounding how many yards Penix threw for because of the final play. After that, it went down to 286. At some point, that might be fixed.