Sunday, October 8, 2017

Michigan State 14, No. 7 Michigan 10: Lewerke's comeback comes full circle in rainy Ann Arbor

                                                    Photo Credit: Mike Mulholland- M-Live

ANN ARBOR, Mich.— After a season-ending broken tibia in last season’s game against Michigan, quarterback Brian Lewerke grinded through rehab and returned this season as everything came full circle. Lewerke finished with a team-high 61 yards on 15 carries as Michigan State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) escaped with a 14-10 win over No. 7 Michigan (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) as heavy rain hovered around Michigan Stadium for most of the second half.

The sophomore provided the most unlikely scenario on MSU’s final possession as he fumbled the snap off the shotgun formation, but received the generous bounce for a 4-yard gain— enough for a first down and took the clock down to 34 seconds in regulation.

“This was the game in which I got hurt in last year, so I took a lot of shots, but it was very good to be able to come down to [Michigan Stadium] for the first time,” Lewerke said. “It was a fun and very good environment to be a part of.”

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio praised Lewerke’s leadership and poise even in the fumble turned first down late.

“[Brian] was solid and the big first down late was big. He was a leader on the field and we said we had to run the football in terms of taking the clock, especially with the way the weather played out,” Dantonio said.

With 80 yards to the end zone and 34 seconds left, Michigan drove down to the MSU 37-yard line with one final hail mary pass, but would be batted away. The Spartans escaped again from Michigan Stadium, but in a more conventional manner compared to the miracle punt return from the 2015 game.

“There was a huge sigh of relief given [Michigan] had a little bit of time left and our defense stepped up and made some plays,” Michigan State linebacker Chris Frey said. “I started to celebrate and realized I needed to get Paul [Bunyan’s Trophy] and is back home where he is supposed to be.”

MSU dominated in the turnover department with five compared to Michigan’s zero and linebacker Joe Bachie led the way with a game-high 10 total tackles and an interception.

Michigan quarterback John O’Korn failed to get into any rhythm as he finished 16-of-35 for 198 yards through the air and three interceptions— the latter all coming on consecutive drives in the second half.

Game Recap:

O’Korn’s bullet pass to Grant Perry on 3rd and 4 to midfield helped set up a 30-yard field goal make from Quinn Nordin to put the Wolverines on the board using and chewed up 6:56 on the clock.

As Michigan looked to be on the verge of another scoring drive, running back Ty Isaac would be stripped by Bachie as Frey recovered and gave Michigan State a prime opportunity at the 46-yard line. MSU took advantage and then some as linebacker Devin Bush would be called for unsportsmanlike conduct to put the ball the UM 11-yard line. Two plays later, Lewerke escaped a trailing Maurice Hurst as he went down the middle of the field and dived into the end zone for a 14-yard TD run.

MSU tacked another touchdown on as Lewerke executed a flawless screen pass to backup running back Madre London and had a convoy of blockers in front for the 14-yard touchdown reception and silenced the Michigan Stadium crowd as it led 14-3 at the 8:07 mark in the second quarter.

O’Korn continued to struggle for the remainder of the half as he missed open targets, while MSU’s defensive line penetrated and accounted sacks as Michigan went into halftime down 14-3.

Michigan’s offense started to find its groove as O’Korn found Khalid Hill and Grant Perry for receptions of 18 and 17 yards, respectively would strike as Hill scored from a yard out as it cut MSU’s lead to 14-10, 6:51 into the second half.

In the blink of an eye, a windy clear air morphed into an endless down pour as both teams would fight through the conditions through the remainder of the third quarter as the score remained the same for the rest of the game.

Looking Ahead:

Both teams return to action on Oct. 14 on the road as Michigan meets Indiana for a Noon ET kickoff, while Michigan State will play its second night game in as many weeks as it plays Minnesota at 8 p.m. ET on BTN.

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.