SAN DIEGO - Michigan State football saved perhaps its most dominant performance for its last game.
The 19th-ranked Spartans scored touchdowns on five straight possessions over the second and third quarters en route to a 42-17 victory over No. 21 Washington State on Thursday night in the Holiday Bowl.
It completed MSU’s remarkable turnaround from missing a bowl game for the first time in Mark Dantonio’s tenure to a 10-3 record this season. It was Dantonio’s 100th win to close his 11th season and his school-record fifth bowl. It also was the Spartans’ sixth 10-win season under Dantonio and eighth all-time.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for 73 more yards. The sophomore’s 3,352 yards of total offense this season are the second-most in school history, trailing only Drew Stanton’s 3,415 in the 2005 season.
Lewerke threw four incomplete passes to begin the game and had just 1 yard passing and one completion after one quarter.
Then, he and the Spartans’ receivers found their rhythm. Lewerke went 9-for-10 for 162 yards and two TDs in the second quarter. That included a 15-yard scramble and strike to Cody White and a 49-yard fake-option bomb to Felton Davis.
LJ Scott added a 3-yard TD run with 29 seconds left in the first half, then tacked on the closing score with 6:14 to play from 28 yards out. The junior running back finished with 110 yards on 18 carries in what could be his final game at MSU if he decides to leave for the NFL Draft.
Lewerke left the game briefly after taking a big hit on a run play in the third quarter, which allowed senior Damion Terry to score a 7-yard touchdown in his final game.
MSU’s defense flew around the field all night against the Cougars’ offense, which was without quarterback Luke Falk. The senior, who did not play because of a left wrist injury, had been the trigger man of Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense that entered the game second in the FBS at 374.8 passing yards per game.
Tyler Hilinski, who played in seven games this season, got his first career start for the Cougars. The sophomore went 17 of 24 in the first half, but he threw for just 89 yards.
Hilinski directed a scoring drive midway through the opening quarter, with the Spartans’ defense stiffening and stopping the Cougars at their 28. Erik Powell’s 45-yard field goal got WSU on the board with 5:45 left in the quarter.
That was all the Cougars could muster until the Spartans had pulled well in front. MSU allowed 254 yards passing yards – just 89 in the first half – and limited Washington State to just 22 rushing yards for the game.
Hilinski threw two TDs in the second half to Tay Martin and finished 36 of 47 with an interception.
The Spartans go into the offseason with more momentum than last year’s 3-9 finish, losing 12 seniors from this season’s team. The date and time of the spring game is yet to be determined, but MSU hosts Utah State on Friday, Aug. 31 to open the 2018 season and will be a significant contender for the Big Ten East Division title.
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