Michigan State defense strong again in 28-14 win over WMU
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Brian Lewerke faked a handoff and the middle of the field opened up, so when the Michigan State quarterback took off running, it was clearly going to be a nice gain.
The question was whether he could reach the end zone.
”I thought I was going to get caught from behind,” Lewerke said.
Lewerke made it all the way for a 61-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and Michigan State’s defense was impressive for a second straight week in a 28-14 victory over Western Michigan on Saturday. Lewerke added another touchdown on a quarterback sneak and also threw for a TD on a day when the Spartans didn’t need to do much offensively.
Michigan State (2-0) has allowed only three touchdowns in two games this year. Two of them came on fumble returns and the other on a kickoff return.
The Broncos (0-2) looked like a dangerous opponent after rushing for 263 yards in a season-opening loss to Southern California, but the Spartans contained WMU’s running backs. The only touchdowns for the Broncos came courtesy of Darius Phillips, on a 67-yard fumble return in the third and a 100-yard kick return in the fourth.
Lewerke opened the scoring with the longest touchdown run by a Michigan State quarterback since 1973. He then threw a 15-yard scoring pass to LJ Scott in the second quarter.
Phillips ripped the ball away from Hunter Rison and ran it all the way back to the end zone to make it 14-7, but Michigan State responded with a 75-yard scoring drive that included a 46-yard run by Darrell Stewart and Lewerke’s 1-yard touchdown.
Scott scored on a 2-yard run in the fourth, but Phillips took the ensuing kickoff all the way back to make it 28-14.
”Obviously the game didn’t turn out exactly how we wanted to. I felt our defense played well. I thought they flew around and did some things,” WMU coach Tim Lester said. ”Offensively, when we can’t get the run game going it puts a lot of pressure on our young quarterback. I thought he did a good job. Second half I thought he was better.”
Jon Wassink was 11 of 26 for 79 yards with an interception for the Broncos. He was sacked four times.
Lewerke went 13 of 21 for 161 yards and was intercepted once.
The last time a Michigan State quarterback had a longer scoring run than Lewerke’s was in 1973, when Charlie Baggett had a 69-yarder against Purdue.
WMU: The Broncos were competitive enough against USC that it looked like they might not slip that much after going unbeaten in the regular season in 2016, even though they lost coach P.J. Fleck and a couple offensive standouts from that team. The game against Michigan State was less encouraging. WMU couldn’t get its running game going, and the passing game wasn’t ready to pick up the slack.
Michigan State: After beating Bowling Green 35-10 in their opener, the Spartans added another win against a Mid-American Conference school. There will be tougher challenges to come, but the defense has been a bright spot so far for an inexperienced team coming off a 3-9 season.
GOING FOR IT
Early in the fourth quarter, WMU declined a personal foul penalty that would have left Michigan State facing third-and-16. Instead, the Spartans had to decide whether to punt or go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 45.
”I felt, hey, if they’re going to go in that direction, we’re going to go in the other,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.
The Spartans went for it, and Scott broke free for a 44-yard run to set up the touchdown that made it 28-7.
Phillips also had an interception to go with his two touchdowns. He now has 13 TDs in his career in five different ways – five on kickoff returns, four on interception returns, two receiving, one on a punt return and one on a fumble return.
”I just came out here to try everything I could do to help the team and keep us in the game,” Phillips said.
WMU: The Broncos face Idaho next Saturday night in their home opener.
Michigan State: The Spartans have an open date before hosting Notre Dame on Sept. 23.
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