Ineffective offense weighs down Michigan State

Bill Rabinowitz
brabinow@dispatch.com
Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tuf Borland (32) and a slew of Buckeyes tackle Michigan State Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke (14) during the first quarter of the NCAA football game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich. on Nov. 10, 2018. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was forced to recite from a familiar script after a 26-6 loss Saturday to Ohio State.

His defense played more than well enough to win, but Michigan State’s injury-depleted offense couldn’t take advantage of its opportunities.

“My message to my football team is, ‘Don’t start pointing fingers. Make sure we’re all accountable in this,’” Dantonio said. “There are things we can do better, whether it’s offense or defense.”

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Michigan State, ranked 18th in the College Football Playoff rankings, fell to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Big Ten.

Quarterback Brian Lewerke started the game but he is fighting a shoulder injury and was ineffective. Dantonio replaced him with Rocky Lombardi for the final drive of the first half, and Lombardi directed a 49-yard drive that resulted in a field goal.

“I know I can't make some throws that I want to with how my arm is right now,” Lewerke said. “(I understand) just trying to give Rocky a chance because his arm is a lot stronger and ready to go.”

In the third quarter, Lombardi had a 47-yard run and added a 12-yarder to move the ball to the Ohio State 27-yard line. Dantonio then tried one of the gimmick plays for which he’s known. Receiver Cody White found Matt Sokol open in the end zone for an apparent touchdown, but it was wiped out because of an ineligible lineman downfield.

“It would have been a big momentum-changer,” Dantonio said. “I think it was the right time to call a trick play. They hadn't read it and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.”

Michigan State settled for a field goal, but the Spartans wouldn’t come close to scoring again. Lombardi ceased to be effective, and Dantonio replaced him with Lewerke. Lombardi finished 7 of 20 for 92 yards. Lewerke was 11 of 28 for 128 yards and an interception.

Michigan State’s running game was even worse. Its running backs gained only 5 yards in six carries.

The Spartans defense mostly did its part, though it faded in the fourth quarter as the Buckeyes took control.

“It's really frustrating,” Lombardi said, “because the defense was playing fantastic and you can't win a game just scoring six points.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

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