When you only have seven wins all season, and only one came against a ranked team, there aren’t a lot of highlights that jump out from Michigan State’s season in 2018.
There were some moments, of course, but injuries and ineffectiveness — especially on offense — were difficult to overcome.
Heres are my five favorites memories from the Spartans’ season:
1. When a win over Purdue really was a big deal
Michigan State beat Purdue 23-13 on Oct.27, which usually wouldn’t be that big of a deal against a downtrodden Boilermakers program. But they are on the rise under second-year coach Jeff Brohm and at the time of this game, were one of the hottest teams in the country. They had won four games in a row and blasted then No. 2-ranked Ohio State 49-20. But Michigan State’s defense shut down red-hot QB David Blough and came up with a big win.
“That’s what you need to do against Purdue,” defensive coordinator Mike Tressel said. “We needed to come up with big plays. That’s what we needed to do, and the guys got it done. … We had three interceptions, and one to end the game, so yeah, I’m proud of the performance.”
2. Still-healthy Lewerke shines in win at Penn State
The Spartans’ only win over a ranked team all season came on Oct. 13 at Penn State, when they won 21-17 against the then No. 8-ranked Nittany Lions. Quarterback Brian Lewerke threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Felton Davis with 19 seconds left to lift the Spartans.
Lewerke was still healthy at the time, and it showed. He passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns in beating the Nittany Lions for the second straight time. He got hurt a week later and Michigan State’s offense was never the same.
3. Getting bowl eligible at Maryland when doubt persisted
Once Michigan State’s offense went into the dumpster, it was getting to the point where wins were going to be hard to find for the Spartans. But needed one more win to get bowl eligible MSU went to Maryland and put on a defensive show for the ages in a 24-3 win on Nov. 3
The Terrapins could muster only 100 yards all day, rushing for only 26 yards on 29 carries, and passing for only 74 yards on 23 attempts. The Terps threatened only once, scoring only a second-quarter field goal. That should have never happened, because Michigan State had a 16-yard punt prior to the drive. That should have been a shutout for the defense.
4. Connor Heyward’s big day at Maryland
Michigan State had problems running the ball all year. Four-year starter LJ Scott was lost early with an ankle injury and the offensive line was banged up all season. The one highlight all season in the running game was Connor Heyward’s big day against the Terps.
Heyward rushed for 157 yards that day and had an 80-yard touchdown run, the Spartans’ longest run of the season. “I don’t know how to describe it,” Heyward said. “You’re just smiling and then looking at the Jumbo screen hoping you don’t get caught.”
5. Defensive performance on big stage in bowl game against Oregon
Oregon’s high-powered offense was held to just 7 points by Michigan State in the Dec. 31 Redbox Bowl, a whopping 25 points below its season average. Sadly for the Spartans, though, they could manage only 6 and lost in the lowest-scoring bowl game of the season.
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is an elite QB, and the Spartans shut him down all day. Oregon had only one good drive, and it’s too bad that was enough. Michigan State’s defense, so much fun all season long, put on a clinic that day. It’s too bad the final result wasn’t different, but it was the perfect snapshot of what this entire season is like.