Spartans' Lewerke elevates his game

Henry Palattella
Michigan State's Brian Lewerke has thrown 10 touchdown passes through five games this season, good for second in the Big Ten. Last year, he had only eight for the entire season. [Al Goldis/The Associated Press]

Brian Lewerke is no stranger to Ohio State.

Coming into the season, Lewerke’s 29 career completions were the most against Ohio State among Big Ten quarterbacks.

Those completions, however, haven’t resulted in many points, as Michigan State has mustered nine points total against Ohio State in the past two years.

If the Spartans want to shock the world Saturday night, they will need Lewerke to lead them to the end zone, not just the red zone.

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While that might be easier said than done against Ohio State’s opportunistic and explosive defense, Lewerke looks ready to give a shot.

The senior leads the Big Ten with 1,325 passing yards and is tied for second with 10 touchdown passes. (Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is first with 16.)

“I do like our offense,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “It’s more productive than it was last year; there’s no question our quarterback is playing at a high level.”

One of the biggest positives for Lewerke this season is his lack of turnovers. He’s thrown only one interception, a far cry from the seven he had through five games last year.

However, in his two starts against Ohio State, Lewerke turned the ball over four times.

“It's a different year; we're not focused too much on last year or two years ago,” Lewerke said. “We're focusing on what we can get done this year, and the offense is confident.”

One of the big changes for Lewerke this year is his health. Last year he played through a shoulder injury he sustained halfway through the season, and he finished with eight touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

This year, it took him all of five games to get to double-digits in touchdown passes.

Last week, Lewerke became the second Michigan State quarterback to throw for more than 6,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 in his career, joining Drew Stanton.

He’s also turned into a strong performer with the game on the line, as evidenced last week against Indiana when he led the Spartans on a five-play, 72-yard drive that set up the winning field goal with five seconds left.

In Michigan State’s only loss of the season, 10-7 to Arizona State, Lewerke drove the Spartans 46 yards in 50 seconds before kicker Matt Coughlin missed a field goal attempt.

The last time Ohio State lost at home, Baker Mayfield threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns (and planted one flag) in Oklahoma’s 31-16 win over the Buckeyes in 2017.

For Michigan State to pull off the upset Saturday, Lewerke probably has to post some impressive numbers. If there was ever a year he would be able to do it, this might be the one.

“We kind of had a younger team and maybe wasn't quite ready (two years ago), but I think the seniority of this team will be ready for this one,” he said.