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Michigan State Spartans football team ready for Wake Forest in chilly Pinstripe Bowl

By DAN GELSTON

AP Sports Writer

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson attended the same college as members of the Steinbrenner family and even got to meet “The Boss.” That would be, of course, George Steinbrenner, the late New York Yankees owner known for his tempestuous nature who demanded World Series trophies and championship rings become a fixture at Yankee Stadium.

Clawson already had the ring — he got engaged to the woman he met when he coached in the Bronx at Fordham.

“I got to my knees on the streets of New York and proposed to my wife,” he said.

On deck, the trophy, in particular the George M. Steinbrenner Trophy awarded to the winner of the Pinstripe Bowl. Clawson has engineered one of the best eras in Wake Forest history and can cap the season with a win this afternoon against Michigan State. The 52-year-old Clawson coached Fordham from 1999 to 2003 and made two more stops before he took over the Demon Deacons (8-4) in 2014.

“New York has always been a place special to me and my family,” he said.

The Demon Deacons are 3 1/2-point underdogs to an MSU (6-6) team that had another down season under coach Mark Dantonio. With a loss, the Spartans would finish under .500 for the second time in three seasons.

Consider, he had just one losing record in his first nine seasons. The Spartans won at least 10 games in a season six times from 2010 to 2017. This season, their four Big Ten wins came against teams with a combined 16-32 record. They were outscored by 29.25 points in their five conference losses.

“It hasn’t been perfect this year. I’m the first one to sit there and admit that,” Dantonio said.

QB OR NOT QB

Brian Lewerke is expected to start for the Spartans, but it could be a QB-by-committee the rest of the way. Lewerke is a senior and Dantonio wants to use the game as sort of an audition for next season. Rocky Lombardi is the backup, and Theo Day and Payton Thorne could also take snaps.

“I think what we look for right now is to give them opportunities to play meaningful snaps, especially Payton Thorne, who has not had that opportunity to play in this system as much,” Dantonio said.