Thursday, October 29, 2020

Halftime Thoughts: Spartan offense comes alive with four touchdowns

September 7, 2019
<p>Senior quarterback Brian Lewerke catches a pass against Western Michigan. The Spartans lead the Broncos, 31-7, at Spartan Stadium on September 7, 2019. </p>

Senior quarterback Brian Lewerke catches a pass against Western Michigan. The Spartans lead the Broncos, 31-7, at Spartan Stadium on September 7, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

No. 19 Michigan State leads Western Michigan 31-7 at halftime in East Lansing.

But, this time around, MSU's defense didn't have to carry the load as the Spartan offense quickly found life. MSU scored a touchdown on its first three possessions, accounting for 212 yards in the first quarter alone.

Here are some quick thoughts from halftime at Spartan Stadium.

Offense responds in a fury

If it wasn't clear yet that MSU's offense got the message that last week's performance against Tulsa was unacceptable, they showed it right out of the gate against the Broncos.

The Spartans went down the field with ease on their first possession, finishing a four-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brian Lewerke to Matt Dotson. The biggest difference was at running back with Elijah Collins who got the start rather than Connor Heyward. Collins gained 40 yards on two carries on MSU's opening possession, showing flashes of speed that was noticeably missing in MSU's backfield.

The Spartans followed that up with a touchdown on its next drive on a 2-yard run by La'Darius Jefferson. A 42-yard strike from Lewerke to Darrell Stewart Jr. grew MSU's lead to 21-0 with just under two minutes left in the first quarter.

The Spartans added a fourth touchdown with under five minutes left in the half, on a drive that included a 17-yard catch by Lewerke from Stewart Jr. on a double-reverse play, when Lewerke found Cody White from two yards out.

The only blemishes came midway through the first half when Lewerke threw an ill-advised pass to Dotson while falling back that was tipped and intercepted by WMU's Najee Clayton, and when Connor Heyward fumbled deep into MSU's territory.

CJ Hayes emerges

The Spartan offense lost a lot of speed when it was announced that sophomore receiver Jalen Nailor would be out for a period of time due to a lower leg injury.

In stepped Hayes.

Hayes hadn't recorded a catch since last season when the Spartans lost 29-19 to Northwestern on October 6. He grabbed three for 31 yards in the first half against the Broncos. Hayes was able to find soft spots in WMU's defense and rack up big yards after catches as well. He also forced a pass interference that led to Jefferson's touchdown run.

It was a big boost to MSU's offense that — for the most part — seemed to be clicking on all cylinders in the first half.

MSU defense bends but doesn't break

WMU had opportunities to put points on the board.

Junior kicker Thiago Kapps missed two field goals and senior quarterback Jon Wassink threw an interception — caught by Xavier Henderson — in the end zone with a chance to cut into MSU's lead.

The Broncos drove within the MSU 30-yard line twice and started with the 20-yard line after Heyward's fumble. However, they only managed to score on one of those possessions on a 14-yard strike from Wassink to tight end Giovanni Ricci.

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