Darrell Stewart sitting pretty as Spartans offense catches its groove

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — It’s hard to picture a guy lounging in an easy chair when talking about playing the game of football.

But that’s exactly how Darrell Stewart described things Saturday night after No. 19 Michigan State’s 51-17 victory over Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium.

A week after the Spartans’ offense was once again unable to build any momentum, things started rolling against the Broncos. The tempo was quick and the points piled up as Michigan State scored touchdowns on its first three drives with Stewart catching 10 passes for a career-high 185 yards.

In other words, the fifth-year senior was feeling pretty comfortable.

Michigan State receiver Darrell Stewart had 10 catches for a career-best 185 yards in Saturday's win over Western Michigan.

“Have you ever sat in a La-Z-Boy?” Stewart said when asked about his comfort level with the offense. “That’s how comfortable. Just chillin and relaxing. It’s a great thing.”

Stewart’s always been quick with the quotes but after a rough performance in the opener last week when Stewart and his fellow receivers had trouble getting open and hanging on to the ball, they were determined to turn things around this week.

“All week in practice we've been believing in each other,” Stewart said. “That's the main thing, that we can come out here and make things happen. It's a beautiful feeling when everything's clicking. One thing I love about our coaching staff is that they believe in us. All throughout practice, drawing up big plays and doing the little things to make the big things happen.”

Stewart was a target early for the big plays. The first play of the game was a 33-yard strike from Brian Lewerke to Stewart, a play that Stewart said offensive coordinator Brad Salem had joked with him about earlier in the week.

According to quarterback Brian Lewerke, the plan to go to Stewart out of the gate came earlier on Saturday.

“Yeah we were planning on doing something else actually,” Lewerke said. “But (coach Salem) said, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ It looked really good on film.”

It turned out that play wasn’t the only big one for Stewart. Late in the first quarter, he broke free in the middle of the Western Michigan defense and hauled in a 42-yard touchdown pass to give Michigan State a 21-0 lead.

“There were some shots that we could create where he lined up in that formation,” Salem said. “A lot of it is the read that takes Brian there, but you know Darrell had a great game with 10 catches, and you it's neat to see how he responded to and had a big day.”

Stewart had six catches in the opener but was targeted far more often this week.

“I just think maybe he didn't have opportunities either and he didn't have as many throws his way,” Salem said. “But what you look through in this process, and it is a process week to week, so you want marked improvement each week and that will be our goal next week when we play Arizona State.

“But just excited how he performed and, obviously, we need at least a positive feeling offensively and I think I'm just excited how they responded, and confidence can come through this and we just have to continue to grow this season.”

By the time the second half was ticking away, Stewart had far surpassed his previous career-high in yards of 98 but came up one short of his career-best 11 receptions.

That wasn’t his focus, however.

“I don’t really focus on yards,” Stewart said. “I just come out and try to dominate every play.”

He did that on Saturday. The key now is doing it each week.

“It felt good to get the ball moving, but we're still hungry,” he said. “We have a lot more games to play. It's good to celebrate right now, but we're back in the lab tomorrow watching film and working out. It's bigger than one game, we're trying to chase a championship.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau