MSU's Lombardi refuses to point finger over dropped passes

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Lincoln, Neb. — The quarterback carousel continued for Michigan State on Saturday against Nebraska, but the results were the same as they were a week ago.

Redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi got his second start of the season in place of injured junior Brian Lewerke and finished 15-for-41 for 146 yards and one interception in Nebraska’s 9-6 victory at Memorial Stadium.

“The wind wasn’t horrible. It was windy out there but it didn’t affect me too much,” Lombardi said. “Maybe a few deep balls sailed on me, but the wind wasn’t really too bad.”

The wind was whipping much of the game and made things tough on both offenses. Nebraska had gained more than 600 yards in two of the previous four games but managed only 248 against Michigan State, throwing for just 145 and gaining 103 on the ground.

For the Spartans, the weather was just one more layer to an offense that has been stuck in the mud. But with Lewerke still ailing, Lombardi took over and had his moments as he also ran for 53 yards.

But Lombardi’s receivers didn’t help him out much, dropping several passes, including one in the end zone during the fourth quarter. When asked about the dropped passes, Lombardi chose to avoid any chance at criticizing his teammates.

“I didn’t see any drops,” Lombardi said.

Asked again, Lombardi tried to deflect some of the responsibility.

“I don’t know. The weather was tough today,” Lombardi said. “It was snowing and like I said the atmosphere was rocking today. It was snowy and windy in one of the loudest atmospheres in the country. All those factors are going to play into the game.”

While Lombardi wasn’t pointing fingers, coach Mark Dantonio wasn’t afraid to single out what he felt was a critical reason Michigan State failed to score a touchdown for the second straight game.

“The drops, we had too many drops,” Dantonio said. “I felt like if I had to point to one thing in a football game, you have to look at the dropped passes. I thought Lombardi played pretty well.”

The decision to go with Lombardi over Lewerke was made before the game, though Dantonio said Lewerke could have played if he had to. However, the decision was made to allow Lewerke’s shoulder to continue to heal.

Dantonio said the shortened the playbook some, but he was confident in Lombardi.

“I think you've basically got to have a wind plan,” Dantonio said. “The wind was blowing out there probably 20, maybe more. It was a decisive factor in the game, although sometimes it would swirl in there. Then, it started snowing in the end, so the footing got a little bit worse. The wind and the weather was definitely a factor, but I think you scale it back with Rocky a little bit, he's a redshirt freshman. You want to limit some of the things that you're doing.

“In terms of explosive plays receiving the football I think we had two, both were to Connor (Heyward). One was a broken play, one was a wheel route. Other than that, we had a couple drops, and they're going to affect you. Two drops in the end zone would've resulted in two touchdowns.”

Who starts in the regular-season finale against Rutgers next week won’t be determined until at least sometime during the week of practice and could go right to game time again.

“I think we have to wait and see how (Lewerke) is feeling and then make some decisions,” Dantonio said. “He could have played but it’s about how he’s feeling mechanically (throwing the ball), not so much pain.”

Twitter @mattcharboneau