ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Brian Lewerke didn’t have a tough time ranking Michigan State’s 14-10 win over Michigan on Saturday night.
“It’s definitely the best win I’ve ever had,” the Michigan State sophomore quarterback said, “probably in my life.”
And he got to play a huge part in sealing it. The Spartans held a 14-10 lead and had the ball late in the fourth quarter, with the expectation they would soon have to give it back to the Wolverines. After all, they hadn’t converted on third down since the second quarter, and they’d only done so once in the game.
Michigan stopped the clock with 2:13 left, hoping to get the ball back after one more defensive play. Michigan State only had 3 yards to go, but it seemed like a mile given its 1-for-13 conversion rate to that point.
Then Lewerke fumbled the shotgun snap, and it looked like he might have to cut his losses and fall on it. Center Brian Allen saw the play wasn’t developing as drawn up and wondered if his snap had been bad. It wasn’t.
“Obviously it was hard to get the ball [in the rain] and I was just trying to fake it too quick,” Lewerke said. “I knew the run was designed to go to the left so I just picked it up and started going that way. It was a quarterback-designed run so I knew where I was supposed to go and I knew I’d have blockers on that side, so I just tried my best to get the first down.”
Lewerke danced backward a couple yards to avoid the pressure, then began to follow Allen’s block. Defensive lineman John Luby came from behind and jumped on top of him 3 yards from the first-down marker. But Lewerke, to his great fortune, fell on top of his center as he went to ground.
“I went to cut the guy and I felt someone behind me,” Allen said. “Someone said he rolled over me. I didn’t really feel him.”
The play would’ve resulted in fourth-and-1, but Lewerke bounced, rolled and squirmed over top of Allen for those extra inches. The officials ruled it a first down on site and stuck with that call after video review.
That probably should have been enough for Michigan State to run out the clock, but a holding call ruined those chances. The Spartans punted it away and had to sweat out a frantic final drive from Michigan.
“I thought we were going to just be able to kneel it down early, but all of a sudden, you know, things happen,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said.
Michigan State got the win, but the Spartans had to sweat out a Hail Mary attempt to emerge victorious.