Michigan State football: Looking back at the Penn State win, and ahead to the Ohio State matchup
EAST LANSING, MICH. — Looking back at what happened in Michigan State's 27-24 win over No. 7 Penn State and a look ahead to next week's road game against Ohio State.
Three things we learned
Lewerke's legit: Quarterback Brian Lewerke is starting to live up to the lofty comparisons to Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook that coach Mark Dantonio gave him before the season. The third-year sophomore set the school single-game record with 445 passing yards against Northwestern, then followed it up Saturday with 400 more to tie Bill Burke's previous record for second. He is just the third Big Ten QB in the past 20 years with back-to-back 400-yard games, along with Purdue's Drew Brees and Northwestern's C.J. Bacher. Lewerke went 33 of 56 against Penn State, including 9 of 14 for 153 yards on third down to pick up eight first downs passing. He threw TDs to Darrell Stewart and Felton Davis, adding 25 rushing yards.
Nowhere to run: The Spartans held Penn State star Saquon Barkley to just 63 yards on 14 attempts, limiting the Nittany Lions to just 65 rushing yards as a team. It was the fourth time this season MSU has held an opponent to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. No feature back has run for more against MSU than the 67 yards by Western Michigan's LeVante Bellamy on Sept. 9 -- with Barkley joining a list that includes Notre Dame's Josh Adams (56), Iowa's Akrum Wadley (30), Michigan's Karan Higdon (65), Indiana's Morgan Ellison (47) and Northwestern's Justin Jackson (47). The Spartans' 87 yards rushing allowed per game ranks third in the Football Bowl Subdivision, behind only TCU and Alabama.
Safety dance: When the Spartans' cornerback play was at its peak with Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes, opponents had to throw away from them toward Kurtis Drummond and Isaiah Lewis in the middle of the field. It's happening again. And among the stars on defense Saturday, MSU safeties Khari Willis and David Dowell played perhaps their best game of the season in tandem with Penn State QB Trace McSorley throwing at them all day. Junior Willis tied a career high with 11 tackles, while Dowell had his second game of the season with two interceptions to up his team-leading total to four.
Matchup: No. 16 Michigan State (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten) at No. 11 Ohio State (7-2, 5-1)
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
TV/radio: Fox, WJR-AM (760).
Know the foe: The Buckeyes are coming off the most points ever allowed by an Urban Meyer-coached team, a 55-24 drubbing at unranked Iowa. Quarterback J.T. Barrett was just 18 of 34 for 208 yards and three touchdowns, but the senior also threw four interceptions after entering the game with just one for the season. Barrett also ran for a team-high 63 yards, while freshman J.K. Dobbins got just six carries (51 yards). Barrett averages 263.8 yards with 28 TD passes, and has run for 57.4 yards and five more scores this season. Dobbins also has five TD runs and averages 101.6 yards rushing a game. Ohio State still ranks fourth in the FBS at 549 yards per game and sixth in scoring offense at 43.8 points. Defensively, the Buckeyes are 20th at 323 yards per game and 38th at 22.3 points allowed.
Three things to watch
Race for Indy: Thanks to two surprising losses -- MSU at Northwestern and Ohio State at Iowa -- Saturday's game more or less becomes a de facto Big Ten East Division championship game. The Spartans and Buckeyes both have three games remaining, and the winner will take a one-game lead on the other. Both Michigan and Penn State are 4-2 in conference play. However, MSU has a schedule advantage over OSU going into the final two weeks -- the Spartans play Maryland and Rutgers, while the Buckeyes close the season at U-M.
Bottling Barrett: In 2014, with the Big Ten title on the line at Spartan Stadium, OSU's Barrett captured his first major headlines. The then-redshirt freshman threw for 300 yards and three TDs and ran for 86 yards and two more scores in a 49-37 win. He got injured against Michigan that year and missed the Buckeyes' run to the national title, then was QB for MSU's shocking 17-14 win at Ohio State in 2015. The Spartans held him to 46 passing yards and a TD and 44 rushing yards in heavy, cold rains that day. In last year's 17-16 win at MSU, Barrett had 105 rushing yards but threw for just 86 and a TD. Only two quarterbacks this season have thrown for more than 200 yards against the Spartans' defense, and both have been in the past two weeks -- Penn State's Trace McSorley with 381 and Northwestern's Clayton Thorson with 356.
Grounded: While Lewerke is lighting up defenses, MSU managed to run for just 74 yards and got only 49 of them from LJ Scott and Gerald Holmes. It was the fourth time this season and third game in a row the Spartans failed to reach 100 rushing yards. Scott, however, picked up some critical first downs on the ground late and -- most importantly -- protected the ball and did not fumble. And Holmes showed he remains a stealthy receiving option out of the backfield with a key 15-yard catch to set up MSU's tying TD late in the second quarter.
This article is written by Chris Solari from Detroit Free Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.