Tyler O’Connor is Mark Dantonio’s starting quarterback.
That is definitive after Dantonio spoke with Michigan State reporters Sunday night on a conference call to recap the 24-21 overtime loss at Indiana on Saturday night that dropped Michigan State to 2-2 and 0-2 in the Big Ten.
O’Connor completed 21 of 35 passes for 263 yards and threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Hoosiers. He led the team on a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final four minutes, 38 seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime. That wasn’t enough for some fans, who took to social media and called for a change at quarterback.
“From my perspective – I’m not going to say he graded winning – but from my perspective, he played above average, that’s for sure. I would say low winning,” Dantonio said. “The people that sit up with their arms up in an arm chair with a big ol’ beer can or soda pop there, they’re going to have to just wait it out a little bit.”
O’Connor was coming off a three-interception game against Wisconsin in which Michigan State failed to score a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke played a mop-up role in that game. Fans were calling for Lewerke to get a bigger shot, or for Dantonio to give junior Damion Terry or freshman Messiah deWeaver a chance to play. Dantonio didn’t hear or see any of that, he said, and told O’Connor to ignore it all as well.
“I talked to him about that prior to this game. I don’t look at all of that stuff. I might tweet, but I don’t look at all of that stuff,” Dantonio said. “As far as how he played, he threw three touchdown passes. I don’t think he threw an interception. He scrambled with the football. He made plays with his feet. He played with courage. He had a couple of balls dropped that would have been huge gains. They would have been difficult catches, too, a couple of them. We had some receivers running different routes, weren’t matching up with what was supposed to be run and we had some offensive line issues in protection.”
Dantonio also said that he has spoken with the Big Ten office regarding the targeting call against junior defensive lineman Malik McDowell that will force him to miss the first half against Brigham Young next Saturday. Whereas conference officials put out a statement this past week saying the targeting call against Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith in a game at Michigan on Sept. 24 should have been reversed by replay, the league won’t be issuing any such statements this week.
“I have seen the hit, or the tackle,” Dantonio said. “And I have talked to the Big Ten office about it. There is no appeal process, so he’ll have to sit the first half.”