Nothing tears a team apart faster than a quarterback controversy. That could have happened at Michigan State the past few weeks, but it didn’t.

That says a lot about the kids in the quarterback room, and the veteran coach who leads them. Mark Dantonio is trying to make all the right chess moves — both immediate and far-reaching — and it’s worked so far leading into Saturday’s huge game with Ohio State.

Veteran Brian Lewerke, he of the 24 career starts since 2016 — and 15 career victories — is the established starter. Freshman Rocky Lombardi is the star in waiting. Both have had big wins the past two weeks and now comes Ohio State.

Lewerke, who injured his throwing shoulder in the Michigan game, watched from the sidelines as Lombardi played great in the upset home win against Purdue on Oct. 27. In his first career start, Lombardi threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns, and looked great doing it. Michigan State’s future is in good hands.

Lewerke was his biggest fan that day, helping him on the sideline between drives. It was such a huge win against a red-hot team like Purdue that had beaten then No. 2-ranked Ohio State a week earlier that everyone enjoyed it.

The “Rocky, Rocky” chants filled the Spartans’ locker room. Lewerke saw it, and admitted Saturday that it changes how he sees the quarterback competition going forward. He’s not taking anything for granted.

“It makes me focus on playing better. Because I know there’s a very competent quarterback behind me who can step in and make plays,” Lewerke said. “It kind of woke me up a little bit, yeah, trying to see the extra stuff I have to do, trying to get better.”

What Dantonio did right was let Lombardi play against Purdue. There were no limits on the playbook and the rookie threw it 46 times.

Then what he also did right was put Lewerke back in the lineup last Saturday against Maryland. He wasn’t 100 percent, but he didn’t need to be for the Spartans to beat Maryland. A strong running game and stout defense took care of all that.

“There’s still a little bit of pain that shoots whenever I throw,” Lewerke said after Michigan State’s 24-3 win. “I try to get treatment on that as much as I can and get it away. It’s just something that’ll take time. Obviously as time goes on and I throw more (each game), it’ll get a little more sore. … I felt good enough to contribute.”

Lewerke felt comfortable with being able to get a win.

“I just told (Dantonio before the game) I feel confident in my abilities,” Lewerke said. “And, for what our game plan was, I thought I could execute it well. Being able to roll out and make the throws a little easier, a little closer for me, that was kind of what I was focused on.”

Dantonio didn’t waver. And there’s a good reason for that.

“Brian Lewerke’s our quarterback,” Dantonio said. “He’s built a foundation here of 20 touchdowns, five touchdowns running, 2,800 yards of offense last year, and he’s played pretty well throughout the season. He’s got an injured arm. I felt like he practiced and he deserved that opportunity. I have faith in our starting quarterback. And that’s the reason, that’s the underlying reason.

The locker room knows, too.

“The guys who know best are the football players. They’re in the arena and are experiencing things first hand,” Dantonio said. “Everything I’m seeing is second hand or watching, and I can slow a film down, but they have to feel healthy enough to play. He felt healthy enough. He practiced all week. He threw the ball all week. So the decision was sort of going in that direction, but I also felt like I needed to hear it from him first hand on game day.”

The third reason might be that third down-the-road chess move. Saturday’s game with Ohio State, as expected, will be difficult. Having an experienced quarterback at the helm might help, which means Lewerke gets the call.

But Lombardi will be ready if the shoulder doesn’t feel right. That might be the next chess move.