East Lansing — Michigan State came out from underneath the shadow of last season against Bowling Green Saturday.
What resulted was a shaky start, a handful of fumbles and a 35-10 win over the Falcons.
"First off 1-0 is the major goal here as we go forward and we were able to accomplish that so that's a big lift for our football team as we move forward," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. "I thought Lewerke got out and made some plays with his feet. You can see that he can create."
Lewerke came out on the opening drive and posted runs of 22 and 9 yards to put the Spartans in scoring position until L.J. Scott fumbled on the Bowling Green 3.
It would take three more Spartan drives before they would answer on a 7-yard stroll into the end zone by Madre London with 11:19 left in the second quarter.
"The fumble at the beginning of the game hurts you but I thought our defense played outstanding," Dantonio said. "I think (the Falcons) were 2 out of 15 on third and fourth downs. They couldn't run the football.
Bowling Green struggled to keep pace in the second half as MSU showed its depth and speed.
Junior Felton Davis accumulated just 35 yards of receiving but pulled down MSU's next two scores from passes by Lewerke; a 4-yard toss with 9 seconds left in the first half and an 8-yard pass with 9:04 left in the third — a one-handed grab while being held in the end zone.
Lewerke made those completions while scrambling, something he says the coaching staff hasn't discouraged, even after his broken leg last season, but he's trying to be better about staying in the pocket.
"I think personally I feel like I did a lot better staying in the pocket than last year," Lewerke said. "Obviously, I got out of the pocket a couple times, the leg felt fine and tried to get down if I had to."
Lewerke finished 22-of-33 for 250 yards and three touchdowns.
Matt Sokol made up for an early third-quarter drop in the end zone with a touchdown — a 13-yard catch with 2:46 left in the third that put the Spartans up 28-3.
Cornerback Tyson Smith, returning from a stroke two days after last season ended, pulled down an interception and returned it for the Spartans' final score before giving up a sloppy fumble return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
"On the offense side of the ball we got a lot of production, big plays, but you had some other things going on that you want to clean up," Dantonio said. We're all chasing perfection, so you know when you're a head coach and you dropped a turnover, that can fry you out on the sidelines a little bit. Like I said earlier, we need to get out from underneath that rock and I thought we did that."
The pressure of last season and all the issues that came to light in the offseason are now forgotten about by the players, senior linebacker Chris Frey said.
"After today what happened in the past doesn't matter anymore," Frey said. "We're a new team, new guys and we're going to focus on the next game. There is a sign of relief, but we're just excited.
"It's been a long time coming since we've sang the fight song and we just celebrated hard in the locker room and had a really good time. That's what it's all about. You get a victory and you celebrate with your brothers. That's what we're going to do."
The Spartans hosts Western Michigan next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Cory Olsen is a freelance writer