Michigan State defense, quarterback play halt Wake Forest at Pinstripe Bowl

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Michigan State

Michigan State’s defense and quarterback play halt Wake Forest at Yankee Stadium Friday, at the 2019 Pinstripe Bowl.

Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NY—“This is the palace; this is the most famous place in the Bronx,” said Wake Forest football coach Dave Clawson this week about Yankee Stadium. The quote eventually led up to the 10th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl as his team out of the ACC prepared to oppose Michigan State Friday.

Clawson, from 1999-2003, was the head coach at Fordham University just up the road from Yankee Stadium. He turned around a struggling football program at Rose Hill, but due to its Patriot League affiliation, Fordham Did not qualify for a Division I Bowl game.

Clawson received that opportunity Friday. The obstacle, Michigan State out of the Big 10, with that Bowl Game history and with an outstanding defense.

In the end, the Michigan State defense came up strong. Oh yeah, the quarterback had a night as well. Brian Lewerke, in his final game, threw for 320 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score and copped MVP game honors in leading the Spartans to a 27-21 victory.

“They did a good job of pressuring us,” said Clawson. “I thought their defensive line did a good job of rushing the passer. We just didn’t get open on the perimeter. We didn’t make enough plays. Credit to them, they did.”

Clawson was proud of his players. Not every team gets that opportunity to compete in a late December football game at Yankee Stadium, and this Pinstripe Bowl has become a premier event.

Syracuse, Penn State, Rutgers and Notre Dame have been there since the inception of this game in 2010 when Syracuse defeated Kansas State 36-34.

Clawson and his team knew this was going to be a struggle against that Spartans defense and a historic program that appeared in their 29th Bowl game.

Junior quarterback Jamie Newman, an all ACC honorable mention selection, second in the conference with 289.1 yards of total offense per game, threw three touchdown passes in the first half.

Wake Forest, with 250 yards offense in the first half, could only compile 101 in the second. That also helped tell the story of this 2019 Pinstripe Bowl.

“I thought we missed some throws,” Clawson said. “We ran that little speed-out a couple of times. Didn’t throw that well. We had opportunities to make plays. We’ll go back and watch that film. We’ll have a hard time sleeping for a couple of days.”

Similar to his days at Fordham, when his team lost to good teams in the Patriot League, Clawson provided the proper analysis for this loss.

However, there is no tomorrow. And another return to the Pinstripe Bowl for Wake Forest, even for Michigan State, may not occur as different conference teams are getting opportunities to play in the Bronx

“There were chances to win that game,” Clawson said. “I think as we became one-dimensional, we played from behind, they did a pretty good job rushing the passer.

The credit, as Clawson said, goes to Michigan State. They are a good football team, and in a game like this, when the right plays are not made, it is the opponent that will get the opportunity.

Michigan State
Robert Cole

Michigan State finished the decade 92-40, though they finished 7-6 two-straight years. And they were able to contain Newman in the second half, which also contributed to their win.

And for Mark Dantonio, the Spartans’ all-time winningest coach, this was his sixth Bowl Game victory that goes with three Big 10 championships.

“I thought we did a pretty good job rushing their tackles back into the quarterback’s lap pretty much, cut down his running opportunities,” Dantonio said.

About Newman, he said, “A good football player. To look at it, 17 rushes per 112 yards for their quarterback. He threw the ball down the field effectively, as well. Good football player. We needed to contain him.”

This wasn’t the Penn-State 31-30 thriller and win in overtime against Boston College in 2014. But this was a good one as the college football tradition continued at Yankee Stadium and Michigan State took home the George M. Steinbrenner III Trophy.

“Obviously when you win the football game, it’s sort of icing on the cake,” Dantonio said. “We had a great experience here.”

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