Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo talk to CMU and former UM quarterback Shane Morris, former Spartan Nick Hill, and former Wolverine Chris Howard about this weekend's key games. Also: Matt Charboneau on his Top 25. The Detroit News
East Lansing — In his first season as the full-time starter, quarterback Brian Lewerke has had his share of ups and downs.
After back-to-back weeks of throwing for 400 yards and adding six touchdowns, the sophomore struggled in Michigan State’s 48-3 loss at Ohio State. Lewerke finished 18-for-36 for 131 yards while throwing a pair of interceptions.
It wasn’t all on him. There was little time to throw — Ohio State sacked Lewerke twice on the opening drive of the game — and his receivers weren’t exactly getting open on a consistent basis. But heading into Saturday’s game against Maryland, Lewerke also is understanding that he needs to overcome those issues and be the consistent playmaker the Spartans are counting on him becoming.
“Being a quarterback, nothing’s ever going to be perfect,” Lewerke said. “What makes a good quarterback is being able to perform when things aren’t perfect, when things aren’t going well and maybe your receivers are getting bumped off the line, your O-line’s, and you got to get the ball out quick. Becoming a great quarterback is realizing that you got to kind of adjust your game, maybe throw more one-on-one jump ball, back-shoulder type throws, just being more accurate in that sense.”
Lewerke is still in the top five in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, but his efficiency took a hit with the loss to Ohio State.
Getting back that rhythm he and the receivers had is the next step for Lewerke as No. 22 Michigan State (7-3, 5-2 Big Ten) hosts Maryland at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“The main thing is how do you bounce back from that performance,” quarterbacks coach Brad Salem said. “You will have adversity as a quarterback, as a football player so (we’re) excited to see how he responds. There’s growth, there’s life experiences in every game so you hope that he pulls those, I know he has. From negative things that happen to you as a quarterback and just more experiences, how do you respond to certain things?”
Lewerke will get a chance to bounce back against a Maryland team that ranks 13th in passing defense in the Big Ten, allowing 247.5 yards a game. It’s also the same team Lewerke faced last season in his second career start when he recorded his first touchdown pass.
He’s made huge jumps since that game, but Lewerke said he’ll draw from the positives of that first meeting.
“I think the improvement I’ve made since last year when I played them has been a big jump,” Lewerke said. “Obviously, I’m going to go back, watch that game from last year and try to realize and see what I did then, what worked, what didn’t work, all those types of thing.”
While Lewerke has had his growing pains this season, he’s still on the path the Spartans expected him to be. He’s 210-for-351 for 2,338 yards and 16 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He’s also run 93 times for 370 yards and three touchdowns.
“You never end your journey until your last game, but he’s been solid,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “He’s been pretty much, I will say pretty much, 75 percent pretty consistent. There were times he hasn’t. I don’t think he played his best game, certainly, last week, and we need to have our quarterback to play his best game.
“But there’s a lot of things that enter into that, pressure and protection and being able to run the ball situationally, what the score is. There’s so many different dynamics that enter into that. But I think Brian Lewerke has a chance to be an excellent quarterback, one of the better ones we’ve had here at Michigan State since I’ve been here, which is a big statement, because we’ve had some good ones.”