STATE COLLEGE, Pa. –– John Reid could only watch from the other side of the field as Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke found Felton Davis III for the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds nearly a year ago at Beaver Stadium.
The heartbreaking ending was eerily similar to the one that took place the previous year in East Lansing. After a three-hour weather delay, the Spartans capped off a comeback with a game-winning field goal as time expired. Both games came exactly one week after one-point losses to Ohio State.
Penn State will head back to Michigan State this weekend, but under much different circumstances. The Nittany Lions are 7-0, ranked sixth in the country, and are coming off a 28-21 win over Michigan in the White Out. But the quarterback who has beaten them each of the last two years –– Lewerke –– will still be standing on the opposing sideline.
“They are just always a really well-coached, disciplined team, no matter what their record is,” Reid said of the 4-3 Spartans. “They are always a great team. That’s kind of the approach we have always taken.”
As painful as it might be for the Nittany Lions to rewatch the tapes from the previous two matchups, there is a benefit in preparation for this week’s game.
“I definitely think it’s a benefit,” Reid said. “Just seeing how they attack us and everything on defense to kind of prepare for that, and some other ways we feel like they will attack us this year.”
In many ways, Michigan State’s offense has remained relatively the same over the past few seasons, and Lewerke has certainly had similar performances against the Nittany Lions.
The Tacoma, Wash. native has thrown the ball more than 50 times in each of his wins over Penn State. His performance two years ago was one of the best of his career at East Lansing, throwing for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Last year, it was a pair of second-half touchdown passes that completed the Spartans’ comeback.
Lewerke is also second in the Big Ten in passing attempts, trailing only Iowa’s Nate Stanley.
But it’s his ability to scramble and step up in the pocket that makes things difficult for opposing defenses, especially Reid and the cornerbacks, who are forced to cover receivers for five to seven seconds downfield.
“We know he has a good ability to ... extend plays, and I think what’s even more important ... is he extends plays but then doesn’t make a lot of bad decisions when he does it,” Reid said. “That’s really a credit to how good of a quarterback he is.”
As ineffective as the Penn State offense has been in the second half of each of the last two matchups, Reid and the defense know they have allowed the game-winning scores in those games.
“We rewatch all the games and know we’re the ones on the field, and we just know that we need to finish it out,” Reid said. “That’s kind of our mentality, being humble and hungry, and then finishing out the game.”