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Opposing QB Primer: Rocky Lombardi is not the Spartans’ biggest issue right now

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However, the fourth-year quarterback is not exactly a great asset, either.

Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Last Saturday is not exactly how Michigan State hoped — or expected — the debut to go for its new head coach and new starting quarterback, but unfortunately it looks like this season could be a tough one in East Lansing. It does not get much worse than losing to Rutgers, and even ignoring the seven turnovers, there are plenty of negatives to point out from the opening week performance.

Though he was not flawless, quarterback Rocky Lombardi should be near the bottom of the list in terms of things to fix. After two years backing up Brian Lewerke, Lombardi entered 2020 with an opportunity to run the offense for the Spartans. He might not last all nine games in charge, but he will at least keep the role heading into the rivalry game this weekend.

Penn State Quarterback Stats

Player Completion % Passing Yards Passing TDs Interceptions Rushing TDs
Player Completion % Passing Yards Passing TDs Interceptions Rushing TDs
Sean Clifford 57.2 1,070 11 8 1
Will Levis 57.4 325 0 0 0

Meh is better than terrible

Lombardi did not enter the season with a ton of excitement, as his limited snaps as a backup yielded less-than-stellar results. He did play three full games as a sophomore in 2018 and came into the year with a lot more experience than someone like Joe Milton, but everything he has put on film thus far points to a quarterback with a mediocre ceiling.

During Week 1 he kept the Spartans in the game — kind of? — with over 300 yards and a 70.5 percent completion percentage, though he did throw a pair of picks. While he effectively put the ball in the hands of options like Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor, he will likely find this task much more difficult against secondaries that are not as questionable as that of the Scarlet Knights.

There really is no running element to Lombardi’s game, and he is going to make some bad decisions when pressured. Do not be surprised if redshirt sophomore Theo Day eventually takes over if/when the season goes (even more) south, though the backloaded nature of State’s schedule means that might not be until the final few weeks of the year.

What to watch against Michigan

Maybe it feels cheap to discount Lombardi’s performance last week by pointing out the competition, but the Rutgers defense is nothing close to what he will be facing in Ann Arbor. The Michigan pass rush is going to get after him early and often, and even this young secondary is certainly far ahead of what he saw last weekend.

The Spartans did not lose because of Lombardi, but he is not the type of quarterback that can single-handedly carry his team when all else is failing. He has not played well against top competition in his limited opportunities in the past, and it is difficult to see how that changes this weekend. Lombardi is not a terrible quarterback, but the odds of him struggling against the Wolverines are pretty high.