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Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke will look to take advantage of Ohio State’s leaky secondary

Is Sparty a pass-first team?!

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State defense is going to have their hands full. Again.

The 2017 Michigan State offense is unlike any other Spartans’ offense that we’ve seen under Mark Dantonio. In Brian Lewerke’s nine starts this season, he has attempted 50(!) -plus passes three times — including his most recent two games.

In their most recent upset win over Penn State, Lewerke completed 33-of-56 pass attempts for 400 yards and two touchdowns. Nope, those numbers are not a typo. In the game prior, against Northwestern, Lewerke completed 39-of-57 attempts for 445 yards and four touchdowns. Is Mike Leach the new offensive coordinator in East Lansing? What’s going on there?

Strangely enough for a Dantonio-led squad, Michigan State uses the passing game like the run game against teams that they believe they can move the ball on through the air. In those two games, running back LJ Scott only carried the ball 22 times total for 59 yards.

After breaking down the susceptible Ohio State linebackers and safeties on film, one would expect Lewerke to air it out early and often against the Buckeyes. What’s scary is that Lewerke is more talented than Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley and he possesses all the traits to light up the back seven.

Let’s break down Lewerke’s pass-happy win over the Nittany Lions.

Brian Lewerke Passing Chart vs Penn State

Designed Runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions Total TD Scrambles Overthrows Throwaways
Designed Runs Dropbacks Completions Incompletions Total TD Scrambles Overthrows Throwaways
0 65 32 22 2 5 3 1
Pressured Sacked Hit PBU Batted at LOS Drops Turnovers Defensive PI
9 2 5 6 1 3 1 3
  • The offensive line started strong, but began to wear down as the game went along. Even though they let up nine pressures, it did come on 65 dropbacks, which certainly puts things into perspective.
  • Although WR Felton Davis (#18) is Lewerke’s No. 1 target, he does a good job of spreading the ball around. Early on against Penn State, he was picking apart the seams — which is a serious weakness of the Ohio State secondary.
  • Penn State dialed up a few blitzes from the safety spot and off the edge. Lewerke made them pay every single time by quickly identifying the blitz and hitting the hot read.
  • Although most of Lewerke’s pass attempts were to the short and intermediate areas of the field, he showed terrific touch and accuracy on his deep ball touchdown. He put it over the corner and just out of the safety’s range — resulting in six.
  • When facing pressure, Lewerke does a good job of moving in the pocket to buy extra time, while keeping his eyes downfield. On this play, he feels the pressure coming from the blindside and doesn’t panic. He then lofted the ball to a spot where only his receiver could make a play on the football. With only nine starts under his belt, he possesses pretty good awareness and poise in the pocket.
  • Lastly, Lewerke is clutch. Staring at a third down and the defense bringing the heat, the quarterback remained poise in the pocket while he surveyed the field. Then hit rolled out to the right to avoid a rusher and fired the ball to the only place where only his receiver could make a play on the football. This conversion led to the game-tying field goal.

If the back-seven didn’t get it fixed in the film room over the past few days, it’s going to be a long day for the Buckeyes. With the defense susceptible to the pass more than the run, expect Lewerke to air it out and rack up some serious yardage.