EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Brian Lewerke threw three touchdown passes, and Tyson Smith capped his heartwarming comeback with an interception return for a touchdown in Michigan State's 35-10 win over Bowling Green on Saturday.
Lewerke, who has taken over as the starting quarterback as a sophomore, went 22 of 33 for 250 yards and also made some crucial plays with his legs, running for a team-high 69 yards.
The play of the day went to Smith, however. He talked last month with reporters about an offseason health scare that involved a severe headache and turned out to be a stroke. By Saturday, he was able to play, and his 38-yard interception return in the third quarter made it 35-3.
"The feeling when I just stepped on the field was more than football, it was a blessing to see that I'm still me," Smith said. "I felt normal — didn't know for sure if I was normal."
Michigan State (1-0) and Bowling Green (0-1) are both trying to rebound from losing seasons in 2016. The Spartans went 3-9 and then had four players dismissed amid sexual assault allegations during a tumultuous offseason, so they entered this season with a lot of work to do to return to respectability both on and off the field.
Michigan State marched down the field on the first drive of the game, only for LJ Scott to fumble the ball away near the goal line. The Spartans lost another fumble near midfield later in the quarter, but they finally took a 7-3 lead early in the second on a 7-yard touchdown run by Madre London.
From there, it was smoother sailing. Lewerke threw two TD passes to Felton Davis — a 4-yarder in the final seconds of the half and an 8-yarder in the third quarter. His 13-yard touchdown pass to Matt Sokol made it 28-3.
Cameron Jefferies returned a fumble 46 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for Bowling Green.
Bowling Green: The Falcons won their last three games of 2016 after a 1-8 start, but they didn't mount much of a threat against Michigan State. Bowling Green managed only 108 yards through the first three quarters.
"We didn't play well offensively today. That was a key to the game," Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks said. "The defense did everything that we asked them to do. I'm proud of that defensive unit."
Michigan State: A lopsided win in the opener — plus a feel-good story in Smith — was what the Spartans needed, but they won't be happy with their turnovers. Scott, one of the team's most accomplished players, fumbled twice, and the Spartans lost three of their four fumbles in all.
Bowling Green: The Falcons will have an easier opponent Saturday night when they face South Dakota in their home opener.
Michigan State: The Spartans host an in-state rival in Western Michigan on Saturday, with the Broncos coming off last year's stellar run to the Cotton Bowl.
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25 .