QB / MICHIGAN STATE
Coming to Ohio Stadium on Saturday will be the newest mode of high-flying travel in the Big Ten. Behold, Air Dantonio.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio got a chuckle out of that.
But led by third-year sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke, it suddenly became the most prolific passing game in the league the past two games. The reeling Ohio State defense, ripped apart by Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley last week, will have to deal with it Saturday.
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But is the upsurge by Lewerke, who threw more than 50 passes for 400 yards or more in each of the past two games, because of an increase in confidence in him or out of necessity?
“We have a lot of confidence in Brian and in our receivers,” Dantonio said. “But I think the majority has been because we need to run the ball more effectively. We got behind the chains (with second-and-long situations) or situations dictated it, and those types of things.
“Of course you’re going to try to stay balanced … but I think more or less sometimes we’ve been forced into that situation.”
Two weeks ago, the Spartans lost 39-31 in three overtimes to Northwestern as Lewerke went 39-of-57 passing for 445 yards and four touchdowns. Last week in the storm-interrupted classic with Penn State, Lewerke was 33-of-56 for 400 yards, two TDs and one interception in a 27-24 win.
“The last two weeks, you saw what they did against Northwestern and what they did against us, they’ve been throwing the ball extremely well,” Penn State coach James Franklin said of the Spartans and Lewerke. “He’s very accurate, has got a strong arm, got really good mobility, very poised.
“And with what they’re doing offensively in trying to run the ball and then play-action pass, and then be willing to drop back and chuck it around as well — right now they’re not your traditional Michigan State team where they’re going to continue to keep pounding the ball. They’re throwing the ball, they’re throwing it for a bunch of yards.”