East Lansing, MI
By Jeff Dullack
East Lansing, MI – After an underwhelming showing by the offense in Michigan State’s season opening win over Tulsa, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio made it clear that he felt the effort and toughness shown was unacceptable, a message he was adamant would get through to his team this week.
And when the Spartans welcomed in Western Michigan to Spartan Stadium on Saturday night, they looked like a team that heard their head coach loud and clear.
The Spartan offense finally had a breakout performance on Saturday night, showing new wrinkles and improved effort from a week ago on the way to a 51-17 win, led by a breakout performance from redshirt freshman running back Elijah Collins.
The win marks Mark Dantonio’s 109th in his time at Michigan State, tying legendary head coach Duffy Daugherty for most all-time in program history.
On the first drive of the game, the Spartans marched 79 yards in four plays, using just 94 seconds to get on the board when senior quarterback Brian Lewerke connected with tight end Matt Dotson for a 2-yard score, taking a 7-0 lead.
After pushing the lead to 14-0 on the second drive of the game on a 2-yard run by La’Darius Jefferson, the Spartans kept their foot on the gas as Lewerke found Darrell Stewart Jr. for a 42-yard touchdown with 1:59 left to play in the first quarter to give Michigan State a 21-0 lead.
Lewerke put together one of his best efforts since the 2017 season on Saturday, throwing for 314 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-32 passing, while Stewart hauled in 10 catches for 185 yards and one touchdown.
Saturday’s game is the first time the Spartans have scored 50 or more points since Michigan State topped Penn State 55-18 back on November 28th, 2015.
Western Michigan would cut the Michigan State lead to 21-14 on its next possession on a 14-yard touchdown catch by Giovanni Ricci from Jon Wassink early in the second quarter.
But the Spartan offense continued moving the ball effectively, scoring the final 10 points of the first half, including a 2-yard touchdown pass from Lewerke to Cody White as Michigan State went into halftime with a comfortable 31-7 lead.
Perhaps the biggest storyline to come out of Michigan State’s win on Saturday was the possibility that the Spartans have found a new starting running back in Collins. The redshirt freshman running back rushed for 192 yards on 17 carries, leading the way for a rushing attack that topped 250 yards for the game. While Collins was having a breakout performance, junior running back Connor Heyward, who started the season opener, tallied just three carries in the win.
Following a pair of Matt Coghlin field goals in the third quarter to take a 38-7 win into the fourth quarter, the Spartans added on touchdown runs from Jefferson and Alante Thomas in the fourth to close out the win.
The Spartans will look to improve to 3-0 next week wen the Spartans take on Arizona State next Saturday afternoon.
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East Lansing, MI