For the first-ever meeting between Michigan State and Wake Forest, Yankee Stadium seemed like the perfect venue for the historic matchup between the two college football teams.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke finished with 366 total yards and two touchdowns to lead Michigan State to a 27-21 win over Wake Forest in the 10th annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Friday in front of 36,895 in the Bronx.
Wake Forest started fast in the opening minutes of the game as quarterback Jamie Newman threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Hinton to cap a seven-play, 65-yard drive to give the Demon Deacons a 7-0 lead. Michigan State attempted to answer as they moved the ball to the Wake Forest six-yard line. The Spartans were held to a field goal to make the game 7-3.
On the next Wake Forest drive, Newman's third-down pass was deflected and intercepted by 293-pound defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk who rumbled 14 yards for a touchdown.
"In high school I played fullback," said Panasiuk. "I guess they didn't see that, but I still got a touchdown so that's cool."
After a 36-yard punt return by Hinton, Newman threw his second TD pass, this time to Donavon Greene. The 16-yard play gave Wake Forest the 14-10 lead with 9:14 remaining in the first half.
The Spartans immediately scored as Lewerke got in on an 8-yard scamper as Michigan State regained the lead, 17-14. The Demon Deacons continued the scoring barrage as Newman's third touchdown went 44 yards to Jack Freudenthal to make it 21-17. After a third-down sack by All-ACC defensive end by Carlos "Boogie" Basham Jr., Michigan State had to settle for a field goal to make the game 21-20 at halftime.
The second half started with a 10-yard touchdown catch by Cody White to give Michigan State a 27-21 lead. The remainder of the third quarter featured multiple stops by both defenses, including a tipped interception by Wake's Ryan Smenda Jr. to round out the third quarter.
The Spartans drove deep into Wake Forest territory early in the fourth. However, the drive ended after Trenton Gillison fumbled at the six and was recovered by Wake Forest to take possession. Michigan State's defense stepped up and forced the Demon Deacons to punt.
"We didn't make enough plays. Credit to them, they did. I'm proud of the way our players competed, battled," said Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson. "We got really thin. That was a little bit the story of our season. I think when we were a healthy football team, we could play with pretty much anybody in the country."
The Spartans put together a clock-killing drive of almost five minutes late in the fourth, but Matt Coghlin missed a 28-yard field goal to give the Wake Forest offense another possession deep in their own end. On the ensuing drive, the Demon Demons were unable to move the ball as Newman was hurt and missed the final two plays of the doomed drive. Michigan State then ran out the clock for the win in New York.
After allowing 21 points in the first half, Michigan State shut out Wake Forest and held them to just 101 yards in the second.
"I feel like we played with a lot more swagger in the second half. We felt like we gave them a couple of touchdowns in the first half.," defensive end Kenny Willekes said after his final game as a Spartan. "We said we were going to make it our goal to have a shoutout this half, and we were going to play with some swagger and confidence.”
"I thought our guys were relentless on both sides of the ball," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. "Huge plays by our defense getting off the field."
"Just can't say enough about our football team and our seniors, that they stayed together. When you win a football game at the end of the year, when you win a bowl game which so much goes into it from a preparation standpoint, it's a good feeling, a very positive feeling."
Lewerke picked up New Era Pinstripe Bowl MVP honors as Michigan State clinched their 11th consecutive winning season under head coach Dantonio.
"It felt good. We wanted to get a win to send the seniors out the right way and to give the guys coming back a little boost for next year," said Lewerke, who played in his final collegiate football game Friday.
"These will be my friends for life. I know I'll always be welcome with the coaches and the players. I'll have a couple of these guys in my wedding party too, so I'm very grateful for the time I've had here [at Michigan State].”
Newman finished with 175 yards passing and three touchdowns, along with 87 yards rushing. Safety Trey Rucker picked up 10 total tackles for Wake Forest, who finished the 2019 season with a 9-5 record.