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Mark Dantonio and MSU improved to 3-1 by winning its Big Ten opener over Iowa, 17-10, on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. Video by Chris Solari/DFP

The pocket collapsed, and Brian Lewerke took off running.

Michigan State needed 12 yards to convert on third down in Saturday’s fourth quarter. The Spartans’ sophomore quarterback picked up 15.

With about 3 1/2 minutes to play, the chains moved, the clock kept rolling. It was maybe the play of the game in MSU’s 17-10 victory.

And it was another sign of the maturation and growing leadership of the first-year starter.

“He’s likable and he’s got a good disposition about him to be able to let things go that sometimes he cannot control. And some of the things he can control, he can still let those go, as well,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said during his Sunday night teleconference. “So I think our players like him, like his demeanor, and he’s got confidence. And I think our players see that in him, and that allows him to lead.”

Lewerke threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns and again led MSU (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) with 42 rushing yards. The next challenge to his leadership comes with his first start against No. 7 Michigan (4-0, 1-0). The Spartans head to Ann Arbor on Saturday for their first night game ever in the rivalry (7:30 p.m., ABC).

More MSU news:

Inside the Spartans: A moment of enjoyment before the fury of Michigan week

Michigan football settles as 12 1/2-point favorite vs. Michigan State

Michigan State football: What we learned vs. Iowa, what to watch at Michigan

The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Lewerke was introduced into the U-M rivalry in the fourth quarter of last year’s 32-23 Wolverines victory at Spartan Stadium, going 6-for-10 passing for 100 yards and running for 24 more on three carries. He needed just five plays and 1:30…