Elements conspire to keep MSU’s Lewerke grounded

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — It’s not the sort of trivia question Brian Lewerke ever hoped he’d be the answer to, but considering it happened in a couple of Michigan State wins, maybe it’s not all that bad.

Michigan State’s sophomore quarterback, who is two weeks removed from a 400-yard passing performance in a huge win over Penn State, was just 2-for-14 for 20 yards Saturday in the Spartans’ 17-7 victory over Maryland on Senior Day at Spartan Stadium.

“That’s going to be a question someday — ‘Who threw the ball for 400 and won, who threw the ball for 20 and won?’ ” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio joked after the game. “It was tough out there, the environment was tough, the weather was difficult. I think where it was really important was in the wide-receivers’ cuts down the field. Maryland did a nice job at the end of the game, getting some vertical routes, but they had to throw the ball down the field, just did not want to do that at that point in time.

“Thought our offense did a great job in the first quarter. The third quarter especially, taking the time off the clock even though we didn’t score, we took time off the clock in those situations.”

The Spartans were in the position where they didn’t have to throw the ball because they ran so effectively, gaining 271 yards and controlling the line of scrimmage.

That doesn’t mean they felt great about the fact they could do nothing through the air.

“I think 2-for-14 obviously is not what we want from our quarterback,” co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “We have to be able to execute in somewhat bad conditions. We just need to be better and I thought given the chance, not that we gave him that many chances I guess in the second half, but the chances he has he just needs to be a little more confident. He needs to sit in the pocket a little bit with some confidence that we are going to protect him.”

It was the least amount of production from Lewerke in his career. Only twice as a starter has Lewerke failed to throw for 100 yards — 99 last season against Northwestern and 94 this season at Michigan — and even his first relief appearance as a freshman in 2016 against Wisconsin netted 26 yards on four attempts.

“It definitely wasn’t fun,” Lewerke said. “It was probably the most cold game, that was my first snow game I’ve ever played in, and probably the most cold game I’ve personally ever played in. It wasn’t easy to throw the ball as the stats show, but we ran the ball really well.”

The native of Phoenix, Arizona, didn’t grow up playing in the cold, but it hadn’t bothered him until Saturday.

He threw for a program-record 445 yards this season at Northwestern in wet, cold conditions, and followed that up the next week with 400 yards against Penn State on a day the game was delayed three and a half hours because of storms.

Against Maryland he just couldn’t get a handle on the ball.

“The wind wasn’t too bad it was more just the ball being slick,” Lewerke said. “When they’d put the dry ball down on the field I’d get it and my hand would be on that wet spot and that was unfortunate.”