East Lansing — Brian Lewerke has had better games, but the Arizona native sure was glad that it at least wasn’t raining.
After two straight weeks of playing in a downpour, it was downright pleasant on Saturday at Spartan Stadium as No. 18 Michigan State hosted Indiana.
However, that didn’t mean things were going as smoothly for Lewerke, who was just 6-for-10 for 60 yards at halftime. But when things mattered most, with the game on the line, the sophomore quarterback started to come to life and helped rally Michigan State to a 17-9 victory.
“Brian Lewerke, I mean you know he’s not always going to play (well),” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Quarterback is a tough position. So, everybody second guesses you and all that kind of stuff, including coaches. He was off on some throws but at the end of the game he made the throws that he needed to make and he does not get rattled. So, he can play through some pain a little bit, and that’s a positive.”
Those throws came with Michigan State trailing 9-3 in the fourth quarter and facing a third-and-19 from its 49 after Lewerke had been sacked for a 9-yard loss.
That’s when Lewerke hit freshman Cody White over the middle for a 16-yard gain and then found freshman Hunter Rison for a 4-yard gain on fourth-and-3.
Chris Frey, Joe Bachie, LJ Scott and Brian Lewerke offer their perspective on MSU's come-from-behind win.
“We had a feeling if we got close enough we’d go for it on fourth down,” Lewerke said of the pass to White. “So, I was trying to get back as many yards as we could and actually if I could have stayed in pocket longer I could have hit Cody and he might have been able to run another 10 yards for the first down. But the game plan was to get as close as we could to set up fourth-down play.”
After the pass to Rison, Felton Davis then ran a double-reverse 16 yards to the Indiana 13 and LJ Scott ran for 3 yards. Lewerke then hit Davis with a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans ahead, 10-9.
Lewerke had two more big throws left on Michigan State’s final drive. He hit Rison for 9 yards on third-and-8 and later, on third-and-9, hit White for a 32-yard gain.
“We were confident the entire time that we could score,” Lewerke said. “We knew what was stopping us, it was ourselves. Missed throws, missed blocks, penalties, and anything like that. We had all the confidence in the world throughout the entire game that we could go down and score.”
Lewerke finished 16-for-29 for 185 yards and didn’t throw an interception.
“Brian, he’s far from perfect as we all are, but when it comes down to it he’s making plays for us,” co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “There’s times that he might not have stuck with the specific read that we would like him to but he’s winning. He’s winning football games and there’s a lot to be said about that. We’re happy with him. He does it because of his calmness and coolness and how he goes about his business. He does a good job.”
Michigan State went simple when it came to becoming bowl eligible.
“It’s awesome,” Lewerke said. “We’re stepping in the right direction and it’s a lot better than where we were last year. Coach D harped on that all week. We had a bowling ball in the locker room, we’re all going to sign it on Monday. We’re going bowling, that’s awesome.”
Junior right guard David Beedle returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with an undisclosed injury. He split time with freshman Kevin Jarvis, who started for the fourth straight game.
… Three players were hurt during the game and did not return. Redshirt freshman tight end Noah Davis suffered an apparent leg injury in the first half and freshman defensive end Jacub Panasiuk also suffered what appeared to be a leg injury in the second half. Freshman tight end Matt Dotson took a big hit in the first half and did not play again.
… Jake Hartbarger’s 62-yard punt was a career long.