Spartans getting a lift from Lombardi
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, October 30
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — When Rocky Lombardi took the field as Michigan State’s starting quarterback last weekend, it was another example of how this season has turned out a lot different from what the Spartans envisioned.
Then Lombardi guided his team to a victory over Purdue, and by game’s end, the Spartans were feeling a bit better about themselves.
“He played very well,” linebacker Joe Bachie said Tuesday. “He controlled the game. That’s what we asked of him, just control the game, run the ball. Then he took his shots when he needed to.”
Lombardi threw for 318 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s 23-13 victory , and perhaps most significantly, he avoided any interceptions. It’s not clear how long Lombardi will hold the starting job ahead of Brian Lewerke, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury, but Michigan State has to be encouraged so far by what its backup quarterback showed against Purdue.
“I think it’s a good problem, let’s just put it that way,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “You’ve got a guy that played well, and we’ll make decisions based on health and other things as we go forward.”
For what it’s worth, Lewerke and Lombardi are listed together atop the team’s depth chart heading into Saturday’s game at Maryland.
Michigan State came into the season with high expectations, thanks in part to the fact that Lewerke and running back LJ Scott were back from last year’s 10-win team. Scott, however, has played in only four games, and Lewerke’s health issues eventually sidelined him as well.
The Spartans were reeling a bit after being shut down in a loss to Michigan two weekends ago, but Lombardi replaced Lewerke, and Michigan State rebounded against a Purdue team that was coming off a big win over Ohio State. Lombardi attempted 46 passes, and the offense didn’t look much different from usual in terms of play calling.
One area Lombardi feels could improve is his accuracy throwing deep.
“That’s something that I did well in high school,” said Lombardi, a redshirt freshman. “So I definitely noticed it on film. I was like, ‘Man, you know what? I could have hit some of those shots.’ We were five, six plays away from putting up a lot of points.”
Lombardi, not surprisingly, said he heard from plenty of supporters after the game.
“I got a lot of love from my family and friends, especially back home,” said Lombardi, who is from Clive, Iowa. “It was good to hear from all those people.”
Michigan State (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) is a longshot to win the Big Ten title after two conference losses, but the quarterback situation may go a long way toward keeping the remaining games in 2018 compelling. Lewerke is a junior, so the questions about who starts could persist well beyond this season.
“I think that Brian Lewerke has established himself with a great foundation. He won 10 games last year,” Dantonio said. “He has established himself. He has a huge foundation on which to build on and stand on, and he’s been elected captain by his teammates.”
For now, however, Lombardi has brought some intrigue. He says he has no expectation for when he’ll find out who plays this weekend, but he’ll be prepared regardless.
“I think the game’s at noon,” Lombardi said. “You could tell me at 11:55 on Saturday morning, and I’d be ready to go.”
NOTES: Dantonio said injured OL Matt Allen will not make the trip this week. He also missed the Purdue game.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister
CFP dreams dashed, No. 19 Iowa seeks Big Ten division title
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, October 30
No. 19 Iowa’s hopes of a run at a playoff spot were dashed last weekend in a late loss at Penn State. The Hawkeyes can still win the Big Ten West.
Iowa’s season might have turned out differently if junior quarterback Nate Stanley’s run of somewhat inexplicable interceptions hadn’t continued with a pick at the Penn State 2-yard line with 3:18 left in a 30-24 loss. Still, the Hawkeyes will have a chance to advance to the Big Ten title game if they win out and if Wisconsin loses one more time.
The Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) have a daunting road ahead, starting with Saturday’s visit to Purdue (4-4, 3-2). That is followed by a home game against West-leading Northwestern (5-3, 5-1).
“Obviously the loss was disappointing and a little bit frustrating for everybody. But the bottom line is good teams learn from their mistakes,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We had some opportunities for some big plays, and it’s true in every game, but when you lose a game, those things are magnified a little bit more and become even that much more important.”
Stanley clanged the thumb on his right throwing hand off a teammate’s helmet in the second half last week. Ferentz said Tuesday that Stanley is “good to go.”
Though Stanley has struggled with turnovers at times this season, he is second in the league with 16 touchdown passes and sixth with 220.5 yards passing per game.
“We don’t have a better guy on our football team,” Ferentz said of Stanley. “Nobody works harder, more invested, so he’ll bounce back.”
If Iowa can’t beat the improved Boilermakers, the goal will be to close out the season on a high note, earn a strong bowl bid and build toward 2019, when a lot of talented players are expected back.
A win on Saturday would keep 2018 very relevant.
The Hawkeyes will likely be favored in their final three games against Northwestern, at Illinois (3-5, 1-4) and at home against Nebraska (2-6, 1-4). Wisconsin still has to play Penn State and Purdue on the road.
“Every week I just talk about the big picture, but that’s brief….every week you see a handful of scores that, boy, how did that happen? So the experts aren’t always right,” Ferentz said. “The best way to do anything is just try to take things a step at a time, as mundane as it sounds, and a week at a time, because that’s really all we have any control over right now.”
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