We spoke with McLain Moberg of The Only Colors about Michigan State’s quarterback from Arizona, their game last week against Utah State and more.
BV: With the temperature forecast for Saturday looking to be above 105 degrees, how do you think that will test Michigan State’s depth?
MM: Arizona State has more than home-field advantage this weekend. They have the desert and that’s something the Spartans have never dealt with. So yes this is going to test MSU in every way possible. Michigan State has only traveled out west two other times. They went to Oregon and Cal and both times were challenging. In terms of their depth, rotations and keeping guys hydrated will be key. Last weekend against Utah State some of the Spartans experienced cramping. I have a feeling the trainers will be working overtime to make sure that doesn’t happen again because in this type of environment availability will be huge.
BV: The talk around town right now is about Phoenix local, quarterback Brain Lewerke. For those that don’t know about him, could you describe his strengths and weaknesses and compare him to former Spartan QBs Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook?
MM: Mark Dantonio has been able to produce some very good quarterbacks here at Michigan State. So it comes as no surprise that Brian Lewerke is next on that list. He is the leader and captain of this team. He is the voice of the offense and the Spartans will go as far as he does. The junior quarterback moves well in the pocket, has the ability to sense and avoid pressure, and knows when to take off for the first down. He can make all the throws, although sometimes he struggles with his accuracy when taking deep shots. But he makes plays when he needs to.
With 5:05 left in the fourth quarter against Utah State he was able to lead his team down the field and help punch it in for the game-winning touchdown. He didn’t care about MSU being down on the scoreboard. He has the mental toughness to stay calm in almost any situation, which has led to quite a few Spartan victories.
The same can be said of Cousins and Cook. Those two guys had the ‘it’ factor. They were collected in clutch moments. What do Michigan State fans think is synonymous with quarterbacks like Kirk and Connor? Winning, and in my opinion Brian Lewerke will be remembered for the same thing.
BV: Utah State certainly gave the Spartans a scare last Saturday, what do you think USU did so well to put up a fight like they did?
MM: First, I want to say Utah State is a good football team and they played a great game. Head coach Matt Wells had a phenomenal game plan and never ran away from what he wanted the Aggies to accomplish. Jordan Love (starting QB) is the real deal. He threw a good ball and ran the offense with poise. If not for a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage who knows what might have happened on the last drive of the game.
Their fast paced offense wasn’t a secret but seeing it on the field is a lot different than watching it in the film room. USU executed at a high rate and made plays when they needed to. In the first half the Aggies pressured Lewerke and sacked him three separate times which resulted in a couple of field goals and a turnover by the Spartans. After halftime they forced a pick six. USU was able to continuously put MSU in some tough situations and take the lead on numerous occasions.
The Aggies were at their best when pressuring Lewerke and executing their game plan on offense. They moved the ball quickly and efficiently which hurt the Spartans ability to substitute and get pressure on the quarterback. If Arizona State has something similar in mind Michigan State will be in big trouble.
BV: N’Keal Harry showcased against UTSA why much of the nation sees him as a top receiver, what do you believe MSU will attempt to do to slow down Harry as much as they can?
MM: In my opinion you need to have Justin Layne on him at all times, Harry is much to versatile to be left alone. But that might not happen, Dantonio is famous for leaving his defensive backs on islands. He dares opponents to throw outside the numbers and take shots when they don’t have too. If Dantonio chooses to do so, it’ll be a one on one battle between one of the best receivers in the nation and the Spartans defensive backs. If MSU wants to slow him down they will need to hit him at the line of scrimmage, try and take him outside of his routes, and stay on his hip at all times.
BV: If the world wakes up Sunday morning to see the Sun Devils have completed an upset, what would they have done on Saturday to beat the Spartans?
MM: Arizona State was able to pressure the Roadrunners quarterback over and over again. They recorded nine sacks and disrupted their offense more than a few times. If the Sun Devils can continuously take Brian Lewerke out of his comfort zone, sack him a few times, and stop the Spartans from executing their run game they will put Michigan State in unfamiliar territory. The Spartans were forced to settle for field goals inside the red zone twice against USU. If ASU has that kind of success against the MSU offense they will be putting themselves in position to win the football game.
BV: Score Prediction:
MM: I’ve got 31-28 MSU. The Spartans were taken by surprise in week one. I’m not sure they were expecting the level of competition that they received when facing Utah State. In football, you can never underestimate your opponent. Mark Dantonio said it best “I think our team has got a dose of reality in all honesty.” Michigan State will be thoroughly challenged by the Sun Devils and at times MSU will be down on the scoreboard but Brian Lewerke and the Spartans are experienced. They don’t veer away from adversity, they run straight towards it. MSU doesn’t always make it look easy but they get the job done.