There’s a shadow cast over Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke. And with every signature performance, it shrinks.
Lewerke, a third-year sophomore, is following a lineage of pro-caliber quarterbacks to play for the Spartans — a group that includes Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook — and is attempting to continue the legacy of high-quality QBs to pass through East Lansing.
“He’s a gunslinger like Cook,” coach Mark Dantonio recently told Sports Illustrated. “He has Hoyer’s confidence, Kirk’s well-being and intelligence as a person, and he’s like Drew (Stanton) as an athlete.”
Although the Scottsdale, Arizona, native is conducting a young offense that features only one senior starter — center Brian Allen — Lewerke has the Spartans (7-2, 5-1) tied atop the Big Ten East standings after a 27-24 win last weekend over Penn State.
Lewerke passed for 400 yards and two touchdowns against the Nittany Lions, increasing his season totals to 2,207 yards and 16 TDs. He is completing 61 percent of his passes, an improvement from his 54.4 completion percentage in spot duty last season.
At 6 feet 3 and 212 pounds, Lewerke remains a capable runner (368 yards and an average of 4.4 yards per carry), but he has been asked to throw more this season and has been effective doing so.
Lewerke attempted 56 passes and completed 33 against Penn State, a week after he completed 39 of 57 passes for a program-record 445 yards and four touchdowns in a triple-overtime loss to Northwestern.
Dantonio, whose teams typically feature an aggressive, ball-controlling ground game, said he doesn’t mind his team airing it out, as long as the interceptions are kept to a minimum and the completion percentage is high.
“It's normally not good, I don't think, if you have to throw it that many times,” Dantonio said. “But we were successful, we won the (Penn State) game and everybody's happy.”
Lewerke, who also topped 50 attempts with 51 in a 38-18 loss to Notre Dame in Week 3, said he is comfortable with any kind of workload.
“I am ready to do whatever I need to do to win," he said.
Coming into the season, Dantonio knew he would have a young quarterback, Lewerke, surrounded by young skill players. The Spartans’ leading rusher, LJ Scott, is a junior. The team’s top four receivers are comprised of a junior, a sophomore and two true freshmen.
“We knew we were going to be young, so we forced the youth on to our football team in terms of, ‘OK, he’s a young player. We need to get him reps,’ ” Dantonio said.