Freshman QB Rocky Lombardi Leads Comeback Win in Spring Game!

Rocky Lombardi and his teammates celebrate.  (PHOTO:  Duffy Carpenter)
Rocky Lombardi and his teammates celebrate. (PHOTO: Duffy Carpenter)

Spartans Stadium

East Lansing, MI

Coming off of a 10-3 season in 2017, #5 Michigan State took the field on Saturday afternoon with its annual Green and White Spring Game at Spartan Stadium.

For the second straight year, the game featured the offense (White team) and the defense (Green team) with the offense using standard scoring and defense using a modified scoring system.

After a slow start on Saturday afternoon, the offense gained traction late in the second half with the help of redshirt freshman quarterback Rocky Lombardi, overcame a 10-point deficit to knock off the defense, 32-30.

Trailing 24-17 early in the fourth quarter, the offense would receive a much-needed jolt of energy behind a long, 46-yard run from running back Alante Thomas to put the offense inside the 5-yard line, setting up Thomas to finish what he started, punching in a 1-yard run to cut the defense’s lead down to 24-23. The offense would then use a little bit of trickery as Lombardi handed the ball off to sophomore running back Connor Heyward, who then threw the ball back to Lombardi for a two-point conversion, giving the offense its first lead since the beginning of the second half.

But Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, wanting to add a little more excitement Saturday’s game, awarded the defense an additional 3-points before the final drive.

And Lombardi and the offense responded once again.

With less than two minutes left to play, the Michigan State offense, starting at the defense’s 40-yard line, drove down the field and used Darrell Steward Jr.’s leaping catch in the back of the end zone with just seconds left to play to lift the offense to a 32-30 win.

Lombardi finished the game with 135 yards on 10-of-22 passing to help lead the offense. Thomas recorded 77 yards on 10 carries and Heyward finished with 44 yards on 11 carries to pace the Spartans’ rushing attack.

Opening up the second half trailing 14-12, the defense would benefit from an Alante Thomas fumble and a Josiah Scott interception with 2:32 left in the third quarter helped give the defense a 24-14 advantage after three quarters. Each takeaway for the Spartan defense was worth three points and the defense earned an additional six points for holding the offense scoreless in the third quarter.

The Michigan State offense would drive inside the 20-yard line at the end of the third quarter, but the drive would stall out early in the fourth after a pair of incompletions forced a Matt Coghlin 37-yard field goal to cut the defense’s lead to 24-17 less than 30 seconds into the fourth.

Lombardi, who is competing for the backup quarterback job, put together a strong showing on the drive as he first avoided pressure for a 21-yard completion to C.J. Hayes, and then scrambled away from pressure for a first down run inside the 20-yard line to put the offense in the red zone.

With the offense struggling for a large portion of the first half, the defense built a 9-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The defense earned six points for shutting out the offense in the first quarter and an additional three points were given to the defense for keeping the offense off the board for the first five minutes of the second.

The offense would begin to find its footing in the late stages of the second quarter as the Spartans used four straight runs by sophomore Connor Heyward, including a 6-yard run, running off the left side and into the end zone for the offense’s first score of the day make it 9-7.

On the next drive, the offense would find the end zone with just 42 seconds left before halftime as Brian Lewerke would find Stewart for a 30-yard touchdown to cap off a four play 49-yard drive that took just 1:03 off the clock as the offense took a 14-12 lead into halftime.

Lewerke completed 7 of his 12 pass attempts for 82 yards and a touchdown while being limited to just a quarter and a half of action. Make no mistake there is not QB controversy and shouldn't be. Lewerke is the man. Stewart recorded three catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

The Spartans wrap up their spring season on Tuesday with their 15th and final practice session before the summer.

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