Lewerke shows no hesitation in return from broken leg
After two fumbles in the Spartans’ first three possessions in their season opener against Bowling Green on Saturday, quarterback Brian Lewerke remained calm.
The sophomore’s serenity Saturday helped lead the Spartans to a 35-10 win over the Falcons, rebounding from what was a doleful 3-9 season in 2016 and followed by a vociferous off-season.
In his first game back since suffering a season-ending broken tibia last season, Lewerke was 22 of 33 for a career-high 250 yards and three touchdowns.
“I think he’s a gamer,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “I think he can make plays, he can create, he’s got a loose play ability. When things break down around him, he can get out of trouble and take a bad play and make it a good play."
Lewerke also found ways to use his legs in Saturday’s victory, rushing for a team-high 69 yards on eight attempts.
“I think personally, I felt like I did a lot better of staying in the pocket and making my reads than I did last year, so I think that was one of the big things that was good that I did,” Lewerke said. “Obviously, got out of the pocket a couple of times. (My) leg felt fine. I tried to get down if I had to.”
His ability to run the ball leads co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner to believe Lewerke is the most athletic quarterback MSU has had during Warner's 11 years with the Spartans.
“I think, like I’ve been saying all along, he’s probably the most athletic quarterback we’ve had — going on 11 years here — and he showed it (Saturday),” Warner said. “I think that's the biggest threat as a quarterback who's got some legs like that. … We called a couple quarterback runs, but when he takes off running after a drop-back pass — there’s some wide-open spaces there — he’s a threat. So, very happy to see that and pleased with his performance.”
On Saturday, Lewerke turned several plays into a positive gain by rushing after being unable to find open receivers.
"I thought his some of his throws were a little low, and some were a little high," Dantonio said. "I was nervous a little bit, but some were right on the money, too. He had some huge scrambles out there. … That’s tough to defend. You add that element into an offensive football team, you have an extra weapon, and that’s something that he can do. He’s proven that.”
Warner said as long as Lewerke turns his runs into positive yardage and remains healthy, he doesn’t mind if the second-year player opts to run out of the pocket.
“I’m a result-oriented guy,” Warner said. “When he scrambles and picks up first downs, I’m happy about it. I think the biggest thing is him staying healthy when he does that — sliding or whatever he needs to do. But I’m not sure there’s a magic formula to that. He made plays, and that’s a great thing. We’ll take it.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, Warner didn’t expect Lewerke to come out in Saturday’s contest as an infallible, complete product after being injured and missing paramount playing time last season.
Lewerke, however, said that playing in four games, including two starts, in 2016 aided in his ability to calm his nerves.
“I got a couple starts last year, so that helped with the jitters a little bit,” he said. “Obviously, you have a little bit with the first game but just try to push them down, try to turn it into play on the field.”
For Lewerke and the team as a whole, they soaked in the victory as much as they could and erased their memories of their dreaded 3-9 season.
“We definitely got as much out of it as we could, but ... it's on to Western (Michigan) now,” Lewerke said. “Just let all the young guys know that winning is not easy in the Big 10. We learned that last year. (We'll) just try to take it day by day and focus on Western.”