Michigan State's Brian Lewerke talks about his ailing shoulder and game plan in Saturday's 24-3 win. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
College Park, Md. — Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has never changed his stance on the quarterback situation for the Spartans — Brian Lewerke is the team’s starting quarterback.
It’s been that way since just weeks after the 2016 season ended when Dantonio declared Lewerke would be the starter headed into the spring of 2017 and nothing happened last season to change that. That’s not surprising considering Lewerke gained the second-most total yards (2,793) in program history last season, throwing 20 touchdown passes and leading the Spartans to 10 victories.
However, things haven’t gone as well in 2018. Lewerke has never truly been in a rhythm and after injuring his shoulder at Penn State, he hasn’t been 100 percent. That led to redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi getting his first start last week and he responded, throwing for 318 yards and two touchdowns.
It seemed like Lombardi was headed for another start at Maryland on Saturday, but instead, Lewerke was back under center in Michigan State’s 24-3 victory.
He didn’t look sharp and was just 11-for-20 passing with an interception on a windy day, though he did run for 45 yards.
“Obviously, I didn’t practice at all last week and did more this week trying to work back into it,” Lewerke said. “Coach D said, ‘If you feel like you’re ready to go then you can go.’ Obviously, I’m not 100 percent, but I felt good enough to contribute. The wind didn’t help, but overall we ran the ball well so that was awesome.”
Lombardi entered the game in the fourth quarter after Lewerke threw an interception. However, he didn’t fare much better as he threw just two passes, the second being tipped and intercepted.
Dantonio said he ultimately decided on Lewerke on Friday night after talking to the junior captain but knew he wanted to play Lombardi at some point, as well.
“I just thought Brian Lewerke is our quarterback,” Dantonio said. “He’s build a foundation here of 20 touchdowns passing, five touchdowns running, (3,352) yards of offense last year. … He’s got an injured arm, but I felt like he practiced and deserved this opportunity so I have faith in our starting quarterback and that’s the underlying reason.
“I also think it’s a good problem as I said earlier this week with Rocky playing well as he did, that we would use him given the opportunity.”
Where Michigan State goes from there is tougher to predict. The passing game was not effective on Saturday, though the high winds certainly made that a bit tougher.
But with Ohio State visiting Spartan Stadium next week, the offense will need better balance. And barring any setbacks, it appears Lewerke will continue to get the call. He said he still has some pain when throwing, but as long as he doesn’t take another hit the injury won’t get worse.
“Brian Lewerke is our quarterback,” Dantonio said. “We’ll work it from there, but just like any Major League Baseball team, if your starter gets into problems and you have an ace reliever, you use him. That’s the way we’ll look at things right now. If things aren’t going quite well and we want to change it up or want to allow a guy to sit and watch for a minute and get back involved.
“He’s done too much around here not to be considered the starting quarterback.”