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Michigan State may have to embrace Rocky (Lombardi) mentality without QB Brian Lewerke

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It is expected Michigan State will play without starting quarterback Brian Lewerke this weekend against Purdue. A week of leaving his status up in the air has apparently taken a turn for the worse as the Spartans prepare to take on the Boilermakers in Big Ten play.

One report from a radio show in Michigan reported Lewerke will not play this weekend due to a shoulder problem that was the reason Lewerke’s status was unknown all week. The shoulder injury popped up a few weeks ago against Penn State and carried over to last week’s game at home against Michigan.

Other reports have classified Lewerke’s status as doubtful, which typically results in a player not playing. Either way, it doesn’t look promising for Lewerke and Michigan State.

If Lewerke is indeed out of action this weekend, the Spartans will give the job to Rocky Lombardi for his first career start. Lombardi has appeared in three games, including last week in relief of Lewerke. He has attempted just two passes with one completion for nine yards.

The Spartans are clearly banged up at this point in the season. Michigan State is already without wide receiver Felton Davis III and a handful of other players. On top of all of those injuries, the Spartans have also reportedly lost backup punter Tyler Hunt to a season-ending injury suffered in practice this week.

This all comes as Michigan State is about to play one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten (a week after playing the hottest team in the Big Ten, Michigan). Purdue has won four straight games, highlighted by last week’s runaway victory over Ohio State. The Boilermakers have scored at least 40 points in each of their last three games, all in conference play.

Michigan State hosts Purdue at noon eastern on Saturday.

No. 6 Michigan too strong for No. 24 Michigan State; Wolverines win first road game vs. ranked opponent since 2006

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A week after blowing away Wisconsin, No. 6 Michigan (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) was ready for a defensive showdown against No. 24 Michigan State (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten). Behind a strong performance by the Michigan defense against a battered Michigan State offense, the Wolverines overpowered the Spartans in a lightning-delayed game by a score of 21-7.

Shea Patterson passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and Karan Higdon led things on the ground with 137 rushing yards on 31 rushing attempts. A 79-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones down the right sideline in the third quarter gave Michigan a 14-7 lead. It was the only catch of the day for Peoples-Jones, and it could not have come at a better time.

Michigan State was happy to have running back LJ Scott back on the field after the senior running back had missed the last four games, but Scott was unable to have much of an impact as Michigan’s rushing defense was suffocating all afternoon. The Wolverines also made things difficult for Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, who finished the day completing just 5-of-25 attempts for 66 yards. It did not help that Felton Davis III, who caught the game-winning pass at Penn State last week, went down with a reported torn Achilles in the second quarter. Lewerke was later replaced by Rocky Lombardi. Ironically, perhaps, Lewerke scored the only touchdown of the day for Michigan State by catching a pass on a trick play run by the Spartans that had Lewerke open for a pass from Darrell Stewart Jr. in the end zone.

The win snapped a 17-game losing streak for Michigan against ranked teams on the road that dated back to the final game of the 2006 regular season against Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh had been 0-4 against ranked teams when playing on the road, and this win also evens Harbaugh’s record against Michigan State and head coach Mark Dantonio.

Michigan will now get a well-deserved off week before taking the field again. When they do, they will be at home for a revenge game against Penn State. A win over the Nittany Lions (who lost to Michigan State last week) would firmly trim the Big Ten East race into a two-horse race between the Wolverines and Ohio State, if it isn’t one already. Penn State will be playing a home game against Iowa next week and Michigan State will host Purdue.

Michigan defense allows just 50 yards to Michigan State in first half

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You wanted defense? You sure have it this afternoon in East Lansing. Michigan leads Michigan State by a score of 7-0 at halftime. The Spartans have put together just 50 yards of total offense in the half against the Wolverines and have failed to convert a third down attempt on their home field.

Shea Patterson‘s touchdown pass to Nico Collins on the first play of the second quarter gave the Wolverines a 7-0 lead. It was the first passing touchdown by a Michigan player against the Spartans since Denard Robinson in 2011, and the first touchdown pass to give Michigan a lead on their in-state rivals since 2010.

The game was paused after about 10 minutes had been played during the first quarter due to lightning in the area. The weather delay lasted about 75 minutes as Michigan continued their drive to score the only touchdown of the half. Michigan had chances to add on to the lead multiple times, but the Wolverines were unable to put points on the board on three straight possessions that started in Michigan State territory. Quinn Nordin missed a 36-yard field goal and the other two possessions ended with punts to pin the Spartans in their end if not for a touchback.

Michigan State has simply not been able to figure anything out against the Michigan defense. The Spartans are 0-for-6 on third down.

Michigan State wide receiver Felton Davis III, who caught the game-winning catch last week at Penn State, was taken off the field sitting on a cart late in the first half.

Big runs by Miles Sanders help give Penn State halftime lead on Michigan State

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With Saquon Barkley on the sidelines as Penn State celebrates homecoming, Miles Sanders has been showing he is not a bad running back either. Sanders has rushed for 145 yards and one remarkable touchdown to help Penn State take a 14-7 lead on Michigan State into halftime in Happy Valley.

Sanders ripped off a 78-yard run in the first quarter to setup a five-yard touchdown run by KJ Hamler to put Penn State in front in the first quarter. The one run alone nearly doubled the total rushing yards by Sanders two weeks ago against Ohio State, which he actually did later in the second quarter.

Michigan State tied the game early in the second quarter after lighting a spark with some trick plays that caught Penn State off guard. A fake punt run by Connor Heyward for a 36-yard gain on 4th-and-6 was later followed by Heyward completing a 36-yard pass to Cam Chambers to take the Spartans down to the one-yard line. From there it was a struggle, but the drive ended with La’Darius Jefferson pushing forward for a touchdown.

Penn State regained the lead when Sanders took a handoff from Trace McSorley on a draw and broke tackles and found room to work on his way to a 48-yard run. It was a run that looked like one that might have been ripped off by Barkley.

More importantly, Sanders gave Penn State a lead that it must now protect in the second half. Penn State has enjoyed plenty of success in the second half this season. Michigan State rallied in the second half to hand the Nittany Lions a tough loss in East Lansing last year. Can they do it again?

Late drive helps No. 11 Michigan State escape tough challenge from Utah State

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If there’s anybody who probably doesn’t mind winning ugly, it’s Mark Dantonio. Of course, that doesn’t mean he will like it after the fact.

No. 11 Michigan State looked rusty on both sides of the ball and nowhere near the kind of team their ranking suggested during their season-opener against Utah State on Friday night, needing a few key plays down the stretch to hold on for a 38-31 win. It was surprising to see given how many starters returned from last year’s 10-3 squad but also had quite a bit to do with how pesky the Aggies were on the big stage too.

Though he was unable to pull off the upset and trailed off after halftime, USU quarterback Jordan Love was impressive given the environment and wound up throwing for 281 yards (one interception) and was just about the lone rushing threat too with a touchdown on the ground. Utah State mounted a trio of 70+ yard touchdown drives in the game — including the game’s opener that proved the team was more than ready to play. Five different receivers had more than 20 yards through the air and tailback Darwin Thompson did find the end zone twice despite the run game being pretty much bottled up.

Perhaps just as impressive was Matt Wells’ defense on the night. In addition to creating quite a bit of pressure, Gaje Ferguson hauled in a pick-six in the second half that led to a 10-point swing in just 14 seconds on the clock. In the end though, it just wasn’t quite enough as Utah State nearly pulled off the top 25 upset on the road they’ve threatened to win several times the past decade.

As for the Spartans, there were a few bright spots on defense like Joe Bachie (11 tackles) grabbing game-sealing interception and Khari Willis coming down with another pick in the first half. It was still not quite enough to be encouraged if you were Dantonio or a member of the MSU faithful, especially given the number of veterans in action on the night and the fact that they just recorded just one sack against a Group of Five opponent.

Quarterback Brian Lewerke was far from sharp despite being labeled by many as a dark horse Heisman candidate entering 2018. Though his numbers were solid with 287 yards and two scores through the air, the pick-six came on an awful decision and he never could quite find a rhythm. If anything, he was bailed out quite a bit by his receivers — particularly Felton Davis with 69 yards and a touchdown.

Running back LJ Scott rushed for 84 yards and contributed quite a bit in the passing game as well but never could quite bust out the big run.

You’ll hear quite a bit of ‘A win is a win’ coming out of the Michigan State locker room this week but the bottom line is that the team very much escaped a close call on Friday. If the Spartans are to truly challenge Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State in their division and work their way into Playoff contention, then a much better effort is needed going forward.