EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Brian Lewerke understood why his coach was so annoyed after an uneven performance last week in the season opener.
“He didn’t want a repeat of last year,” Lewerke said. “Neither do I.”
Lewerke threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns, and No. 19 Michigan State responded to coach Mark Dantonio’s call for a more complete performance, beating Western Michigan 51-17 on Saturday night. Darrell Stewart had 10 catches for 185 yards for the Spartans. The victory gave Dantonio a share of the school record for victories.
Dantonio won his 109th game for the Spartans, matching Duffy Daugherty’s mark. Michigan State (2-0) looked a lot sharper on offense than in its opener against Tulsa. The Spartans scored touchdowns on their first three drives. Elijah Collins finished with 192 yards on 17 carries.
“A great game by our entire football team I felt,” said Dantonio, who shifted roles around on his offensive staff after a disappointing 2018 season. “Came out energized, and certainly our offense had a lot of big plays early in the game.”
Dantonio called his team out during the week for its performance in the opener, even though Michigan State won that game 28-7. The Spartans appeared to get the message. On the first offensive play Saturday, Lewerke found an open Stewart for a 33-yard gain. Michigan State opened the scoring on a 2-yard pass from Lewerke to Matt Dotson after only 94 seconds.
“We knew that we could come out here and make things happen,” Stewart said. “It’s a beautiful feeling when everything’s clicking.”
La’Darius Jefferson added a 2-yard touchdown run, and Stewart scored on a 42-yard reception later in the first quarter to make it 21-0.
WMU (1-1) scored in the second quarter on a 14-yard pass from Jon Wassink to Giovanni Ricci, but the Broncos were down 31-7 at halftime.
“All the credit to that defense there,” Ricci said. “They’re a very good defense, a very good team. Michigan State came out to play but I felt like we have a lot to learn from them.”
The second half belonged to Collins, a redshirt freshman who broke free for a 58-yard run early in the third quarter. By game’s end, Michigan State had reached its highest point total since a 55-16 win over Penn State in 2015.
“I thought we were in rhythm,” Dantonio said. “The plays were coming in very fast. There was success on them. I thought Lewerke played outstanding. You can see what he can do when he’s healthy and he’s confident.”
WMU: The Broncos had problems in coverage and let Stewart get free too many times. WMU forced two turnovers in the second quarter — and one of those gave the Broncos the ball at the Michigan State 17 — but did not score after either one.
“We were playing a top 20 team. When you get opportunities, you’ve got to capitalize on them,” WMU coach Tim Lester said.
Michigan State: This was a good response by the Spartans after their coach’s dissatisfaction. The only real issue for Michigan State was the aforementioned turnovers. The Spartans lost an interception and a fumble in the first half but weren’t punished. Michigan State cut down significantly on penalties. After 14 in the opener, the Spartans had only two Saturday.
Receiver Jalen Nailor did not dress for the game for Michigan State. Dantonio said he has a lower leg injury but is expected back at some point this season.
ON THE GROUND
Michigan State held Tulsa to minus-73 yards rushing. WMU finished in positive territory with 67, but that was still only 2.5 yards per rush.
No issues for Michigan State this week. The Spartans took a step forward offensively, and that was their biggest concern.
WMU: Hosts Georgia State next Saturday night.
Michigan State: Hosts Arizona State on Saturday. Michigan State lost to the Sun Devils 16-13 last year.
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