EAST LANSING — Tuesday morning, Dantonio walked into the press room and ripped on his offense multiple different ways. At one point he even called their effort into question.
He went as far as to say half of his team had it figured out and “half of it didn’t.” Well, tonight I think the offense gave him precisely what he needed.
”I thought Lewerke played extremely well,” said Dantonio. “We did what we needed to do in terms of playing hard and playing with toughness and knowing what to do....our offensive line did an outstanding job as well.”
This week the offense didn’t start slow or stall out late. No, it wasn’t some repeat of last season, and no MSU didn’t luck into scoring 51 points. MSU came out strong and never stopped.
Their first two plays went for 62 yards and immediately put them in scoring position (one play-action pass from Lewerke to Stewart for 33 yards and a 29-yard run by Elijah Collins). In total it was a drive featuring four plays for 79 yards and a touchdown reception by a TIGHT END.
“That was probably the first game since Penn State last year where I felt happy about a product I put on the field,” said Lewerke after throwing for over 300 yards for the first time since losing to Northwestern last year.
Lewerke threw for over 300 yards twice in 2018, both losses to Arizona State and Northwestern. This time he leaves Spartan Stadium with a victory. Tonight he looked confident, calm, collected, and accurate. He was poised in almost every decision he made. He’ll leave having completed 71.8% of his passes for 314 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
“I thought Lewerke played outstanding. You can see what he can do when he’s healthy and confident,” said Dantonio.
His starting quarterback wasn’t the only offensive highlight against the Broncos. The Spartans have found their starting running back in Elijah Collins (and if they haven’t I don’t have much of an answer for you).
The sophomore ran all over the Western Michigan defense — averaging 11.3 yards per carry and rushing for 192 yards on 17 attempts. It was the most production Spartan fans had seen out of the backfield in quite some time.
I’m not talking about statistics either, because Heyward rushed for 157 yards against Maryland in 2018. I’m talking about the feeling everyone gets when watching the game on television — the “yeah this is our guy” feeling. He didn’t do it alone, though. It was also a massive game for the offensive line.
Here are some of their totals:
- 0 sacks allowed
- 7.4 yards per carry (for all backs)
- 8.7 yards per play on 582 total offensive yards
Let’s not forget about Darrell Stewart Jr’s big night catching the football. After Jalen Nailor went down with a lower leg injury earlier this week he was placed back in the slot and boy did he look comfortable. He scorched the Bronco defense for 10 catches, 185 yards, and a touchdown. He was five yards away from tying R.J. Shelton for most receiving yards in a single game (Shelton is 10th on the list).
“Just proud and excited, because I know they put in work like we put in work,” said Raequan Williams. “I know a lot of people talk down on them so I’m just excited to see it finally work for them. We know how much they work.”
- Elijah Collins is the starting RB, and you can't convince me otherwise. Anthony Williams ran well and could see some carries here and there, but he won’t take opportunities away from Collins as long as Dantonio gives him the spot.
- It was a bad Western Michigan defense; you can be sure of that. So the Spartans offense isn't back, but I have to give credit to Dantonio and Salem for opening up the playbook and taking some shots. If nothing else, its proving Michigan State is going to start playing offense with a whole lot more tempo than usual.
- Lewerke looked like himself again, at the very least, his performance will allow him some confidence moving forward.
- The offensive line played their best game in a long time, and that shouldn't go unnoticed.