Michigan State football: Big finish still matters in last two weeks
Michigan State sits at 6-4 after Saturday’s tough loss at home to Ohio State, and we’re down to just two games now, a visit to Nebraska and a home finale against Rutgers.
On paper, there really doesn’t seem to be much to play for now that the Big Ten East is going to be decided without the Spartans being involved. But it does matter, because 8-4 sounds way better than 6-6, or even 7-5.
- Winning out means a better bowl game, which is always good when Spartans fans are ready to escape winter for a week.
- Winning out means there’s better energy heading into the offseason, making workouts and conditioning so much easier when lofty goals seem more attainable. That’s especially true when you’ve got 17 or 18 starters likely to return for 2019.
- Winning out means a little something to a handful of recruits who look at those kind of things. There are still plenty of recruiting battles to be won in the next few months, and every little bit matters on the field.
So, go win out.
That should happen, considering Nebraska (3-7) and Rutgers (1-9) have really struggled this year. First-year coach Scott Frost started 0-6 at his alma mater, but the Cornhuskers have been playing better lately. Rutgers is a mess, and has been all season, losing nine straight games after winning the season opener.
Winning the last two — and then a bowl game — would tie Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio with the legend Duffy Daugherty’s for the most wins (109) in school history, so that’s something.
Getting to a Florida bowl game, likely the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day in Tampa or the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Eve in Jacksonville, is a worthwhile goal. But a big finish also helps build the right attitude for next year.
Dantonio has often said that how well the 2012 team finished by winning its season finale at Minnesota and then TCU in the bowl game set the tone for a big 2013 season, which led to a Rose Bowl trip. There’s no guarantee that would happen again, but it’s always an option.
Figuring out the quarterback situation the final two weeks is going to be important, too. Veteran starter Brian Lewerke just isn’t himself, and his damaged throwing arm was clearly a factor in the loss to Ohio State.
“I could tell I wasn’t throwing the ball very well. It just didn’t feel right,” Lewerke said. “Sometimes, when I go out there, it’s not happening.”
Dantonio pulled Lewerke in favor of freshman Rocky Lombardi, but that didn’t work out well either. Ohio State had a lot to do with that. Lewerke knew he didn’t have it.
“I was probably going to say, ‘Rocky should go in anyway, just because he can throw the ball,’ ” Lewerke said. “His arm is a lot healthier than mine right now. I know that I can’t make throws that I want to, sometimes, with the arm right now.”
Lombardi should get the call if Lewerke still feels the same way Saturday. The health issue should win out, and, at the very least, the experience is good for Lombardi.
If 2019 is what matters now, then let him have his shot.