State College, Pa. — Damion Terry got his first chance to start on Saturday, and for almost two quarters, things couldn’t have been going much better.
The Erie, Pa., native was playing closer to home and he was leading a Michigan State offense up and down the field against No. 8 Penn State.
But midway through the second quarter with Michigan State ahead, 6-3, Terry ran for 9 yards to pick up a first down at the Penn State 12. He took a shot to the head, however, and he came up woozy.
He went to the sidelines for concussion testing and was declared out for the game. A promising start for the junior was dashed, and even though Michigan State led 12-10 at the half, the offense never really got rolling again as Penn State cruised to a 45-12 victory.
“He did a nice job and took us down the field,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “I thought he played very well.”
Terry got the call over fifth-year senior Tyler O’Connor and was playing well. He completed 7 of 12 passes for 101 yards and ran for 15.
“We wanted to start him for a number of reasons,” Dantonio said. “No. 1, he is a younger player and we wanted to give him a chance to be a starter rather than in and out of a football game, for him to be the guy. It was a tough decision with Tyler O’Connor playing his last football game. But it was warranted based on our season right now and based on his progress.
“I thought he played very well. He drove us down the field — got to get in the end zone — and made some plays with his arm, made some plays with his feet a little bit. So I think it was positive.”
O’Connor said he was fine with Terry getting the start and did his best to help throughout the week. Once Terry went down, he tried to pick up where Terry left off.
“I talked to the coaches and was all for Damion starting,” O’Connor said. “He deserved this opportunity and has worked hard for four years. It was his only opportunity to start in this stadium, being from Pennsylvania, so I was more than OK with it.
“I felt horrible (when he got hurt). I saw the play and don’t know how it was not helmet to helmet. He got nailed on the head and his head was everywhere so I ran and got my helmet. I felt nothing but sorrow for him. He was playing well and it was a great opportunity for him to perform.”
What it means moving forward remains to be seen.
Redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke is expected to be healed from his broken leg in time for spring practice while true freshman Messiah deWeaver is expected to push for the starting job. Terry will have to battle both to get another start for the Spartans.