Michigan State Football: Brian Lewerke aiming to make doubters remember

EVANSTON, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 21: Brian Lewerke #14 of the Michigan State Spartans passes against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on September 21, 2019 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
EVANSTON, ILLINOIS - SEPTEMBER 21: Brian Lewerke #14 of the Michigan State Spartans passes against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on September 21, 2019 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

For Michigan State football, the win over Northwestern was important. But for Brian Lewerke, it was a bid to make those who forgot him, remember again.

It was the kind of play that would make him panic last year.

Second and goal. Four minutes to go in the third. Michigan State was up 14-3 against Northwestern, but there was enough time for a crushing momentum shift, something Brian Lewerke and the Michigan State Spartans grew all too accustomed to in 2018.

And so when Lewerke executed the play fake off the snap, and saw a rusher running free on the right side, closing in, his heart must have jumped. Perhaps in 2018, Lewerke, with his confidence as a passer shattered, and his shoulder sore, would have tucked the ball and sprinted forward. Perhaps he would have forced an ill-advised throw; a knee-jerk reaction to the threat of continued defeat.

But this time, Lewerke didn’t panic. With a savvy display of pocket manipulation, he pulled the ball at the end of the fake and hopped forward once, back inside the pocket. The move allowed Lewerke’s blockers to gain leverage on the edge rusher once again, and it allowed him an extra second to scan the field.

One second, as it turned out, was all he needed. Because at that moment, Lewerke found tight end Matt Seybert dashing up the seam, peeling off a Northwestern defender. In one quick, swift motion, Lewerke set his feet, squared his shoulders, and let his arm do the rest, like a rubber band pulled back, only to snap forward. He fired a laser into the end zone. A perfect ball. Touchdown, MSU, making it 21-3. Ball game.

Lewerke’s performance against Northwestern exuded a certain kind of steadiness that hadn’t been seen from the signal-caller since his sophomore season. His stat line wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was unforgivably efficient: 18-for-31, 228 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers.

For Michigan State football, the 31-10 win against the Wildcats is just one minor victory on a long, harrowing road back to relevance. But for Lewerke, it’s the first step toward putting the 2018 season behind him, and making them remember.

Who’s “them”, you ask? Just about everybody.

After his breakthrough 2017 campaign, Lewerke was widely touted as a legitimate NFL prospect at quarterback, with both the athleticism and arm elasticity to forge a future on the gridiron. The Draft Network’s own Kyle Crabbs said Lewerke had the traits to be a top quarterback prospect, and potentially break into the first round of the NFL Draft.

But when Lewerke’s 2018 season was derailed by a perfect storm of eroded confidence, throwing shoulder injuries, and subpar coaching, all the hype died, as swiftly as a light switch engulfed by the night. And everyone chose to forget.

Lewerke himself had a hand in his own temporary collapse. But the context spoke to a bevy of issues beyond his control, and these issues were ignored en mass by the national media. In lieu of understanding, Lewerke became the punch line of the 2020 quarterback class. And like any misunderstood underachiever, he’s roared back, to let the nation know he’s still here.

In just four games, Lewerke has almost matched his touchdown total from last season. So far in 2019, he’s completed 86 of 138 passing attempts for a career-high completion percentage of 62.3 percent. He’s thrown for 1,025 yards, an average of 7.4 yards per attempt, and to his seven touchdowns, he only has one interception.

The numbers aren’t dominant, and more consistency is needed from the offense in general; the Arizona State loss is proof of that. But Lewerke’s quick start is a reminder of his upside. The journey is still far from over and he needs to capitalize on his growth, and help the Spartans string together wins. But with his confidence restored, he’s starting to make people remember.

Next. 5 positive spins to put on Arizona State loss. dark

And if he continues to ascend, a return like this one will be impossible to forget.