After announcing he's been dealing with a minor shoulder injury after the Michigan game, junior quarterback Brian Lewerke said Tuesday he is beginning to practice more heading into Saturday’s game against Purdue.
Coach Mark Dantonio feels confident with Lewerke as the starter for the Spartans’ next game and said he should have no problems. Even though Lewerke and the offense struggled in their 21-7 loss to the Wolverines, Dantonio knows the blame of the loss is not all on his veteran quarterback after pulling him in the final minutes of the U-M game.
“There’s a lot of different things going into this, and I think he can be a very effective quarterback, but I do think he’s got to practice,” Dantonio said. “I know he feels better than he did last week, so hopefully that’ll happen. He did practice, but he wasn’t able to throw down the field.”
Lewerke is still listed as the starting quarterback against Purdue, and he plans to remain focused and prepared to play like he does every week.
Dantonio announced during his weekly press conference Tuesday that Lewerke was beginning to get more comfortable during practice. But Lewerke did not confirm or deny his comment heading into this weekend, and he still does not know if his shoulder injury could have affected his performance against the Wolverines.
“During the game, I felt like I had a decent amount of velocity on it,” Lewerke said. “The ball just wasn’t going where I wanted it to go. Whether it has to do with my arm or just being uncomfortable, is something you just have to work through.”
Lewerke did not practiced during most of last week, which allowed redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi to see more reps. Lombardi was put in with a little under three minutes to go in the game Saturday and felt that the practices leading up to the game made him feel more comfortable.
He admitted he felt excited to be able to play in his third game as a Spartan and his second as the quarterback. Although he did not warm up as much as the starters Saturday, this was a way to help his team out and try to catch up to U-M on the scoreboard in the final minutes.
“I’m ready to play every Saturday,” Lombardi said. “It’s my job as the backup quarterback to prepare to start every week. I feel like I have done a good job at that and I’ll continue to do a good job with that.”
Even with more injuries plaguing the offense, Lombardi feels comfortable with the offense MSU has. For him, it is mostly the same players in the huddle and bringing their chemistry from practice onto the field.
Lombardi looks up to top quarterbacks in the league to be the best he can be.
“Playing quarterback is a very unique position,” Lombardi said. “You need game reps to really get back in your rhythm and get back to playing the way you're used to playing.”
In his career, Lombardi has thrown 9 yards and went 1-of-2 against the Wolverines. He has -12 rushing yards between two games, and has made an appearance against Central Michigan and got snaps as a punter against Arizona State.
To help prepare Lombardi, Lewerke continually works alongside him during practice to make sure he is staying prepared.
“I talk to him and make sure he’s on the same page,” Lewerke said. “Make sure he knows how to go out there and how to perform at a high level.”
Dantonio feels that Lombardi will build a “good foundation” in the future as a quarterback, but he's still confident with Lewerke leading the team for now.
He knows Lombardi can be a good player, but he still needs to work on things, including getting rid of the ball quicker and not getting sacked often, to prove his position in the future.
“He’s played a lot of football here last year and been very successful, and I think he’s got a live arm and I have a lot of confidence in him,” Dantonio said. “Not that I don’t have confidence in the other guys, but we’re going to play the guys that we think are the best players at a particular point in time. If that changes, then we’ll make decisions on that.”