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Rocky Lombardi already accustomed to being Michigan State Spartans’ starting quarterback

Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi looks toward the bench during the first half against Rutgers on Oct. 24 in East Lansing. (AP file photo)

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

Rocky Lombardi quickly put Michigan State’s quarterback uncertainty to rest.

There’s no doubt who the Spartans’ top choice is now.

It wasn’t long ago that there was a bit of mystery about who Michigan State’s starter would be in the season opener, but Lombardi — who had the most experience — was the pick, and he’s off to a nice start with two straight 300-yard games. He threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns last weekend in an upset victory over Michigan. There are few better ways to win over Spartans fans.

Lombardi, who started three games at quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2018, now looks as if he’ll hold that role for a lot longer.

“I definitely feel like I’ve improved so much in the last two years,” he said. “Watching myself play as a freshman — sometimes you just sit there and you cringe at some of the plays.”

Lombardi will probably still have some growing pains. In fact, MSU opened the season with a loss that snapped Rutgers’ 21-game losing streak in Big Ten play. The Spartans turned the ball over seven times that day, although Lombardi did throw for 319 yards and three touchdowns but had two interceptions.

It was a tough day for the new starting quarterback and for new Michigan State coach Mel Tucker, but Lombardi saw positive signs.

“Really, offensively, I felt very good about the way we played, if you take away those turnovers,” Lombardi said. “We showed it on (the following) Saturday. We had no turnovers, and we end up winning the game.”

Indeed, Michigan State’s turnaround last weekend at Michigan was remarkable. The Spartans prevailed 27-24, in large part because Lombardi was able to throw deep against the Wolverines. He completed just 17 of 32 passes but made them count.

Lombardi led Michigan State on an 11-play, 92-yard drive in the fourth quarter, converting a couple third downs and then completing a pass of 31 yards to Ricky White. Lombardi threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Connor Heyward to give the Spartans a 27-17 lead.