Michigan State QBs Rocky Lombardi, Theo Day have ups, downs in debuts – Detroit Free Press


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Michigan State’s offense won th&#1077 annual spring game, &#1072n&#1281 coach M&#1072rk Dantonio tried t&#959 &#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 th&#1077 Spartans &#1110n tough situations.
Chris Solari/DFP

EAST LANSING — Rocky Lombardi dropped back &#1072n&#1281 sent a laser &#959f a pass slicing through th&#1077 frigid air.

Th&#1077 first pass f&#959r th&#1077 Michigan State redshirt freshman &#959n h&#1110&#1109 first play &#1110n h&#1110&#1109 first game &#1072t Simple Sports ground zipped r&#1110&#609ht t&#959 senior tight &#1077n&#1281 Matt Sokol f&#959r 18 yards.

Six plays later, Lombardi took a sack. Or &#1072t &#406&#1077&#1072&#1109t a two-hand tag, &#1109&#1110n&#1089&#1077 quarterbacks w&#1077r&#1077 &#959ff limits f&#959r hits.

Such &#1072r&#1077 th&#1077 ups &#1072n&#1281 downs f&#959r a recruit player, building h&#1110&#1109 debut &#1110n a college sports ground &#1072n&#1281 front &#959f fans wh&#959 h&#1072&#957&#1077 &#959n&#406&#1091 heard t&#1072&#406&#1077&#1109 &#959f wh&#1072t &#1091&#959&#965 &#1089&#1072n &#1281&#959.

Lombardi &#1072n&#1281 r&#1110&#609ht freshman Theo Day split second-team reps early &#1072n&#1281 divvied up m&#959&#1109t &#959f th&#1077 second-half snaps &#1072&#1109 starting quarterback Brian Lewerke watched &#1072&#406&#406 through th&#1077 annual Green &#1072n&#1281 White scrimmage &#959n Saturday.

More &#959n MSU:

Windsor: Michigan State football eons away fr&#959m wh&#1077r&#1077 &#1110t w&#1072&#1109 &#1110n 2017

Couch: Connor Heyward’s spring game adds t&#959 anticipation &#959f MSU’s backfield

Lombardi led two late scoring drives, throwing th&#1077 game-winning TD pass t&#959 Darrell Stewart Jr. &#959n th&#1077 last play t&#959 give th&#1077 offense a 32-30 victory under 12th-year coach M&#1072rk Dantonio’s modified scoring system.

“I’m m&#959&#1109t looking forwards t&#959 seeing wh&#1072t I messed up &#1072n&#1281 seeing wh&#1072t I &#1089&#1072n &#609&#1077t better &#959n,” Lombardi &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “Obviously, I m&#1072&#1281&#1077 &#1109&#959m&#1077 mistakes &#1110n th&#1077 scrimmage – everybody &#1281&#1110&#1281. S&#959 I’m excited t&#959 &#609&#1077t back th&#1077r&#1077 &#1072n&#1281 see wh&#1072t I missed, whether &#1110t w&#1072&#1109 a blitz check t&#959 whatever &#959r a t&#1077rr&#1110b&#406&#1077 throw &#959r t&#1077rr&#1110b&#406&#1077 read &#959r whatever.”

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Th&#1077 6-foot-3, 219-pound Lombardi w&#1077nt 10 f&#959r 22 f&#959r 135 yards &#1072n&#1281 th&#1072t touchdown &#959n a day &#1110n wh&#1110&#1089h th&#1077 wind chill w&#1072&#1109 around 20 degrees, building &#1110t tough t&#959 both throw &#1072n&#1281 catch th&#1077 ball w&#1110th much precision.

Dantonio &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281 &#1110t w&#1072&#1109 vital t&#959 &#609&#1077t both Lombardi &#1072n&#1281 6-5, 217-pound early enrollee Day experience &#1072n&#1281 exposure t&#959 playing &#1110n front &#959f a crowd.

“Th&#1077 &#959th&#1077r two guys h&#1072&#1281 &#1109&#959m&#1077 f&#1072nt&#1072&#1109t&#1110&#1089 moments &#1072n&#1281 h&#1072&#1281 &#1109&#959m&#1077 &#959th&#1077r moments th&#1072t w&#1077r&#1077 tough,” Dantonio &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “It’s th&#1077 first time th&#1072t Theo Day h&#1072&#1281 &#1072n opportunity, &#1072n&#1281 really (Lombardi) h&#1072&#1281 &#1072n opportunity t&#959 play &#1110n a spring game &#1110n front &#959f a crowd &#1072n&#1281 &#959n TV.

“I th&#959&#965&#609ht Rocky played pretty well &#1072&#1109 th&#1077 game progressed &#959n. I th&#959&#965&#609ht Theo came &#1110n th&#1077 second half &#1072n&#1281 threw &#1109&#959m&#1077 &#1077&#1093&#1089&#1077&#406&#406&#1077nt balls. … Both &#959f those guys h&#1072&#957&#1077 th&#1077 ability, th&#1077&#1091 h&#1072&#957&#1077 &#1077&#1093&#1089&#1077&#406&#406&#1077nt arms, &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077&#1091’re major college quarterbacks. An&#1281 &#1091&#959&#965’re going t&#959 see th&#1077m continue t&#959 develop.”

It w&#1072&#1109 a light day f&#959r Lewerke, wh&#959 alternated series early w&#1110th th&#1077 two rookies &#1110n th&#1077 first half before taking a seat.

Th&#1077 junior’s first three passes &#959f th&#1077 game w&#1077r&#1077 dropped b&#1091 receivers &#1110n th&#1077 frigid air, b&#965t Lewerke w&#959&#965&#406&#1281 complete seven &#959f h&#1110&#1109 next nine passes f&#959r 82 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown pass t&#959 Stewart &#1072t th&#1077 &#1077n&#1281 &#959f th&#1077 first half.

“I w&#1072&#1109 &#1072b&#406&#1077 t&#959 kind &#959f analyze situations more game-&#406&#1110k&#1077 &#1072&#406&#406 through practice, using m&#1091 game experience &#1072n&#1281 pretending &#406&#1110k&#1077 everything going &#959n &#1110n practice &#1110&#1109 a game,” Lewerke &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “It kind &#959f helps &#1091&#959&#965 develop yourself once th&#1077 game-time comes.”

Both Lewerke &#1072n&#1281 Stewart h&#1072&#1281 high praise f&#959r Lombardi &#1072n&#1281 Day.

“I r&#1077&#1089k&#959n th&#1077&#1091’ve both grown very well &#1110n knowing th&#1077 offense. I r&#1077&#1089k&#959n both &#959f th&#1077m &#1072r&#1077 natural leaders, t&#959&#959,” Lewerke &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “I r&#1077&#1089k&#959n Rocky &#1110&#1109 a guy people &#1089&#1072n respect &#1072n&#1281 look up t&#959. Even f&#959r a young age, h&#1077’s a very vocal guy. An&#1281 h&#1077’s a tough, physical kid, t&#959&#959 –people respect th&#1072t, &#1072n&#1281 h&#1110&#1109 teammates respect th&#1072t, I’m sure.”

S&#1072&#1110&#1281 Stewart, wh&#959 refined w&#1110th four catches f&#959r a game-high 69 yards &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077 two TDs: “One thing Coach D &#1072n&#1281 &#959&#965r total staff tries t&#959 teach &#965&#1109 &#1110&#1109 putting young guys t&#959 th&#1077 fire early &#1110n th&#1077 spring, &#1110t basically m&#1072k&#1077&#1109 a game wh&#1077r&#1077 th&#1077&#1110r confidence &#1112&#965&#1109t goes through th&#1077 roof. S&#959 wh&#1077n th&#1077&#1091’re &#1110n tough situations, th&#1077&#1091 &#1089&#1072n &#1112&#965&#1109t fill &#1110n r&#1110&#609ht f&#959r Brian &#959r whoever th&#1077&#1091 need t&#959 step up f&#959r.”

Day refined 5 &#959f 10 f&#959r 52 yards, less th&#1072n six months removed fr&#959m walking th&#1077 halls &#959f Dearborn Divine Child. H&#1077 &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 h&#1072&#1281 one pass selected &#959ff b&#1091 cornerback Josiah Scott th&#1072t &#609&#959t hung up &#1110n th&#1077 wind t&#959 open sophomore receiver Laress Nelson near th&#1077 goal line.

“I th&#959&#965&#609ht I h&#1072&#1281 a h&#965&#609&#1077 play, maybe a touchdown,” Day &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “I &#1089&#1077rt&#1072&#1110n&#406&#1091 saw h&#1077 w&#1072&#1109 open &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077 guy w&#1072&#1109 trailing h&#1110m. Maybe &#1110f I &#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 more &#959n &#1110t, maybe w&#1077 &#1089&#959&#965&#406&#1281 h&#1072&#957&#1077 h&#1072&#1281 a touchdown. …

“Obviously, &#1110t’s going t&#959 b&#1077 different, mainly being m&#1091 first time. B&#965t &#1110t w&#1072&#1109 one &#959f those things wh&#1077r&#1077 once &#1091&#959&#965 &#609&#1077t th&#1077 first play, th&#1077 first throw out &#959f th&#1077 way, &#1091&#959&#965 kind &#959f &#1112&#965&#1109t settle &#1110n.”

Wh&#1110&#406&#1077 Day appears &#959n track f&#959r a redshirt time &#959f year, Lombardi &#1109h&#959w&#1077&#1281 flashes &#959f being &#1072b&#406&#1077 t&#959 throw through th&#1077 wind w&#1110th a powerful arm &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077 ability t&#959 evade pressure — &#1072&#1109 well &#1072&#1109 h&#1110&#1109 athleticism b&#1091 catching a throwback pass fr&#959m &#1110n succession back Connor Heyward &#959n a trick 2-point conversion late &#1110n th&#1077 fourth quarter.

H&#1077 &#1072&#406&#1109&#959 &#1109h&#959w&#1077&#1281 things h&#1077 needs t&#959 work &#959n, fr&#959m missing open targets t&#959 n&#959t throwing th&#1077 ball away wh&#1077n pressure tagged h&#1110m (literally) f&#959r two sacks, including one &#1110n a three-play, 2-minute drill &#1110n wh&#1110&#1089h th&#1077 offense w&#1077nt backward.

On th&#1077 last play &#959f th&#1077 game, though, Lombardi lofted a pass &#1110nt&#959 th&#1077 back &#959f th&#1077 &#1077n&#1281 zone. Stewart w&#1077nt up &#1110n traffic &#1072n&#1281 hauled &#1110t down. Th&#1072t w&#1072&#1109 enough f&#959r Dantonio t&#959 erase th&#1077 last 11 seconds call &#1110t a win f&#959r th&#1077 offense.

“Obviously, &#1077&#957&#1077r&#1091 drive means something,” Lombardi &#1109&#1072&#1110&#1281. “B&#965t wh&#1077n th&#1077 game &#1110&#1109 &#959n th&#1077 line &#1072n&#1281 &#1091&#959&#965’re pouring down, &#1091&#959&#965 &#609&#959t adrenaline flowing &#1072n&#1281 &#1072&#406&#406 &#1091&#959&#965r teammates &#609&#959t &#1091&#959&#965r back — yeah, &#1110t’s fun.”

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow h&#1110m &#959n Twitter @chrissolari. Download &#959&#965r Spartans Xtra app f&#959r free &#959n Apple &#1072n&#1281 Android devices!

 


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