On his weekly conference call with local media Sunday night, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio addressed his team’s quarterback situation.
Redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke made his first start in Saturday’s 54-40 loss to Northwestern, and Dantonio said he will continue to play moving forward. However, no decision has been made on who will start this week at Maryland.
Dantonio on conference call with writers says no decision on who starts at QB next week but expects Lewerke to play at some point.
— Kevin Goheen (@CincyGoGo) October 16, 2016
“We’ve looked at who played and how they played and we’ll make some decisions on those things here probably (Monday),” Dantonio said. “I would expect Lewerke to play. Does he start or not? He’s in contention.”
Lewerke finished 12-of-19 passing for 99 yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats, but was replaced with senior Tyler O’Connor mid-way through the third quarter. O’Connor finished 13-of-21 passing for 281 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Dantonio lauded O’Connor for how he has handled the quarterback uncertainty.
“I was impressed with Tyler O’Connor coming back the way he did and maintaining not just his attitude but his composure in that type of situation,” said Dantonio. “That was very positive.”
After the game, Spartans co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner reminded the media that junior Damion Terry is still very much in the mix, too. Terry relieved O’Connor in the fourth quarter against Brigham Young. O’Connor started the first five games of the season.
Dantonio said that Lewerke showed some positive traits in his first real game action (Lewerke played in a mop-up role against Wisconsin on Sept. 24) but that there are plenty of things he has to improve.
“He did some other things in terms of his progressions and in terms of who he’s reading he’s got to square away and things like that, but he did some good things,” Dantonio said.
Lewerke completed 5 of 7 passes for 73 yards and his touchdown, a 15-yard pass to senior TE Josiah Price, in the first quarter. He also had 30 yards rushing on seven carries, including a 24-yard scramble out of pocket that preceded the touchdown pass.
Dantonio did not announce a starter during the week prior to the Northwestern game, choosing to reveal Lewerke as the starter on the Big Ten Network broadcast moments before kickoff.
Also during the call:
- Dantonio discussed how co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett talked to the team about his experiences as a player at Michigan State. Barnett was on the 1987 Big Ten championship team that beat Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl. The next season the Spartans started 0-4-1. They won their final six regular season games to finish second in the Big Ten. “I think we have players that can play. We have to play more consistently.”
- On moving Malik McDowell to start at defensive end: “I thought he played pretty well and in some ways really well. But it’s his first time out, so probably a little learning curve there.”
- The run game continues to be a trouble spot: “Our inability to run the football with any consistency, you get in situations where you have to throw the football. And with a redshirt freshman quarterback, in the second half, we gotta throw the ball too much.”
- On what lies ahead: “Bottom line is we play Maryland this weekend. We’re walking down a long road, we can’t turn and go back, you gotta keep going down the road as a group. We got out-coached, out-toughed, out-played. And you see the result of that.”
Kevin Goheen covers Michigan State for Landof10.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CincyGoGo