Michigan State Spartans complete football turnaround with win in Holiday Bowl over Washington State
By BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer
SAN DIEGO — Michigan State put a nice, big exclamation mark on its turnaround season.
Brian Lewerke threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns, and LJ Scott ran for 110 yards and two scores for No. 18 Michigan State, which took advantage of Luke Falk’s absence to rout No. 21 Washington State 42-17 in the Holiday Bowl on Thursday night.
Lewerke also rushed for 73 yards for Michigan State (10-3), which rebounded from a dismal 3-9 record last year to reach double digits in wins for the eighth time in program history.
“We were ready to play. We were fresh,” said Mark Dantonio, who earned his 100th victory in 11 seasons as Spartans coach. “It wasn’t good enough to win nine games. We needed to win 10. We needed to have a great bowl game. This was a national stage. Holiday Bowl is an outstanding bowl. It’s catapulted us up the rankings at least a little bit further.
“We reaffirmed our stature a little bit in college football. This has been a good football team and should continue to be a good football team.”
Falk, who was photographed earlier in the week with a cast on his left wrist, went through warmups but came out in street clothes at game time. He was replaced by redshirt sophomore Tyler Hilinksi, who made his first start and eighth appearance of the season. It’s unclear precisely when Falk injured the wrist on his non-throwing hand, but he had issues with it throughout the season.
Coach Mike Leach refused to give specifics during the week and was condescending afterward when asked about Falk’s injury.
“Luke is doing exactly what we want Luke to do and Luke has had a fine career here and also done a great deal for this program, probably more than most people will ever realize,” Leach said. “Tyler was the ideal guy to start with our lineup today.”
Pressed on Falk’s injury, Leach said: “You will remain unclear on it. Next question.”
Hilinski led WSU (9-4) to a 45-yard field goal by Erik Powell on the Cougars’ second drive, but the Cougars were overpowered by the Spartans.
Lewerke threw the first of two TD passes to Cody White, a 7-yarder midway through the second quarter, when he was flushed to the left but found the receiver in the back of the end zone.
On MSU’s next possession, Lewerke took the snap and glanced at his running back, which froze the secondary and allowed Felton Davis III to get wide open for a 49-yard scoring pass.
Scott scored on a 3-yard run to give the Spartans a 21-3 halftime time.
Early in the third, Lewerke rolled left and had his pass tipped, but a sliding White caught it for a 7-yard touchdown.
Lewerke, who finished 13 of 21, was hit hard on a keeper in the third quarter and came out for a few plays. His backup, Damion Terry, scored on a 6-yard keeper to make it 35-3.