Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, December 29, 2017
Michigan State emphatically punctuated one of the best turnarounds of 2017 with a dominating 42-17 win vs. Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. The fact that the Spartans were in a bowl was remarkable when you remember Michigan State was 3-9 in 2016 and also was dogged by off-field issues.
Which direction was the program going?
Mark Dantonio quelled any doubters with a dominating season, as his program is back on track with a 10-win season. No doubt, Michigan State was helped tonight by the fact star Wazzu QB Luke Falk was ruled out with injury prior to kickoff. He is the nation?s active leader in career passing yards with 14,486. The Cougs also were without their top two wideouts. Consequently, the Washington State offense never got on track, and MSU rolled. Dantonio has a young roster, so the best may be yet to come in East Lansing.
BEST OF HOLIDAY BOWL
Best play: MSU opened the second half scoring with Brian Lewerke rolling out and looking into the end zone. His pass was deflected ? and landed in the hands on Cody White for a 10-yard score to give the Spartans a 28-3 lead.
Best player: Michigan State QB Brian Lewerke picked up where he left off in the regular season, dominating with his arm and feet en route to tossing three TD passes. After a slow start tonight, Lewerke took over the game in the second quarter, staking the Spartans to a 21-3 halftime lead and never looking back. He got knocked woozy in the third quarter and left the game for a bit. It didn?t matter. Michigan State led, 35-10, after three quarters and cruised.
Best moment: Michigan State?s first TD drive of the game was an epic 16-play, 81-yard march that consumed 9:24. It was capped by a Brian Lewerke-to-Cody White scoring connection that covered 15 yards. MSU led, 7-3, and never trailed again.
Best stat: 100, as in career wins at Michigan State for Mark Dantonio. Only Duffy Daugherty (109) is ahead of Dantonio on the Spartan list.
OFFENSE: A. After a sluggish start in the first quarter that produced no points, the attack came to life with 21 points in the second quarter en route to MSU scoring a season-high 42 points. Brian Lewerke ran and passed with aplomb, running for 73 yards and throwing for 213 yards on 13-of-21 passing. Felton Davis III was a big benefactor, making a team-high four grabs for 118 yards and a TD. And Cody White set a school mark for receiving yards by a freshman with 490. On top of all of that, LJ Scott ran 18 times for 110 yards and two TDs as the Spartans tallied 440 yards.
DEFENSE: A. This is a Michigan State defense that is loaded with speed and athletic ability with players like S David Dowell, CB Josiah Scott, LB Chris Frey, LB Joe Bachie and DE Kenny Willekes. So the unit didn?t need any help, but it got a big assist when Falk was ruled out. Wazzu had little room to run, notching 24 yards on eight carries. And backup QB Tyler Hilinski never got in rhythm, hitting 39-of-50 passes for 272 yards with two TDs and a pick. Bottom line: It was a long night for Mike Leach?s offense, which entered the game averaging 446.4 yards and had only 296 after also getting stymied in this game last season in a loss to Minnesota. The Cougs led 3-0 after the first quarter ? and then got steamrolled.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C. Nothing was really needed from this area. MSU didn?t attempt a field goal or have many opportunities on returns.