TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) – Michigan State’s season opener was far from perfect. The 15th-ranked Spartans committed too many penalties, had a second-half interception returned for a touchdown and needed to score in the final two minutes to hold off Utah State.
The bottom line: They won, which is all that really matters.
Season openers are always a little dicey because there are no preseason games like in the NFL, so the mantra is usually whatever it takes to win. Michigan State won, and it’s time to move on to the next one.
“I just want to win a football game. We’re 1-0. As far as I’m concerned, we’re always getting pushed up the ladder,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “It’s a struggle out there. I don’t care who you play against, it’s challenging.”
The Spartans face what should be an even stiffer test Saturday night, when they’ll play in the desert heat against Arizona State.
Unlike Michigan State, the Sun Devils rolled over a smaller-conference school in their opener, scoring two quick touchdowns on the way to a 49-7 win over UTSA in Herm Edwards’ debut as coach.
Manny Wilkins threw for four touchdowns and Arizona State had a balanced attack, running for 266 yards while shutting UTSA down defensively.
Like the Spartans, the Sun Devils have plenty to work on. They had too many penalties, went through a second-quarter lull and Wilkins missed a few throws.
Arizona State will need to clean some of that up in what will also be an uptick in competition for them.
“It’s not like you’re going to just have your way with them because you’re not,” Edwards said. “There are going to be a lot of bad plays and we’ve got to realize that and we can’t get flustered because this is who they are. You’re not going to be able to make errors or, when you get a chance to make a play, to not make it. You’ve got to make the plays. You have to because they’re not going to give you second and third chances.”
A few more things to look for when No. 15 Michigan State faces Arizona State:
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke grew up in the Phoenix area and was a four-star recruit out of Pinnacle High School. The junior expects to have a contingent of family and friends ranging possibly in to the hundreds.
“It’s very fun,” he said. “You know, see all my family again in the middle of the season, something I normally can’t do. So I’m very excited for it.”
Lewerke threw for 287 yards and a pair of TDs with an interception in the opener against Utah State.
STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH
Arizona State had success running the ball against UTSA, led by Eno Benjamin’s 131 yards and TD on 16 carries. The Sun Devils may have a tougher time against the Spartans. Michigan State was second nationally against the run a year ago, allowing 95.3 yards per game, and held the Aggies to 25 yards on 25 carries last week.
READY FOR THE HEAT
The calendar flipping to September usually signals cooler weather in most places. Not in the desert. The temperatures are usually still in the triple digits early in the month and Saturday’s high in Tempe is expected to be 108. It will cool some by the 7:45 p.m. start, but it will still be plenty hot and the Spartans know it.
“We’re practicing hot and humid up here,” Dantonio said. “Ninety and humid here the next couple days. Hopefully that will get us a little bit indoctrinated.”
BIG TEN IN TEMPE
Arizona State has had its fair share of success against the Big Ten at home. The Sun Devils enter Saturday’s game 9-0 against the Big Ten in Tempe, winning by an average score of 39-15. Arizona State’s last Big Ten home win came against No. 20 Wisconsin in 2013.
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