Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke will be playing against the Michigan Wolverines for the fourth time in his career on Saturday.
The Spartans have lost two of these games, and won 14-10 in 2017 during a torrential downpour at The Big House. Lewerke has gone 22-of-57 for 260 yards with 2 touchdown passes in his career against Michigan. The numbers are deceiving, though, Lewerke can get things done on a given Saturday. The 6-foot-3 QB has thrown for 7,226 yards along with 42 touchdowns and 26 interceptions in his career.
“He’s a really, really good football player, the offense goes through him,” Michigan safeties coach Chris Patridge said on Wednesday. “They’ve kind of adapted their offense in the last couple years and he’s been able to handle that and execute at a high level. He can beat you with his legs, he can make the throws, he’s a player who’s really capable of putting together a big game.”
Lewerke rushed for a career high 96 yards and a touchdown last week, the yardage total was the highest of his career.
“He’s a weapon for them, we need to prepare with him throwing the ball and running the ball for sure,” Partridge said.
The damage Lewerke does on the ground is a fact that can’t be ignored. The senior has rushed for 1,157 yards and 8 touchdowns in four seasons. During the Spartans win in the rain over Michigan in 2017, Lewerke was able to convert key conversions with his legs, and had a touchdown run that put MSU ahead. On the day, Lewerke rushed for 61 yards and the touchdown.
“He’s a big guy, too. He can get running and build up momentum,” Jim Harbaugh said on “Inside Michigan Football” this week. “Also, a guy that will lower his shoulder. We have a lot of respect for him as a football player, and we’re going to have to be good. He has designed runs, for him as the quarterback, but he’s not afraid to pull it down and start running either.”
Michigan has done well of late bottling up mobile quarterbacks, with the likes of Notre Dame’s Ian Book and Penn State’s Sean Clifford rushing for a combined 30 yards on 17 attempts. However, even when Lewerke isn’t picking up yards on the ground, his wheels still allow him to buy extra time to find a couple talented receiving options such as Darrell Stewart Jr. and Cody White.
Lewerke has attempted over 30 passes in 8-of-9 games this season, so expect a heavy dose of him on the ground and through the air. If Lewerke is stopped, the chances of the Spartans offense having success will greatly decrease as their running game is ranked just 106th in the nation.
There’s no secret as to how Michigan will go about trying to stop Lewerke. They’ll be sending a heavy blitz at him repeatedly. The Spartans rank No. 20 in the nation in sacks allowed, the Wolverines rank No. 26 in team sacks, so this is a strength versus strength match-up.
Michigan State may be coming off an embarrassing loss, but Lewerke is a competitor that will be trying his hardest to pull off another upset at Michigan Stadium.