"The problematic thing is that we've got to score in the red zone, got to score touchdowns," coach Mark Dantonio said. "You have opportunities to do that, but you're talking about inches at times. That's the thing that bit us last year. That's the thing we have to get past."
A year ago, MSU scored a touchdown in the red zone a little more than 50 percent of the time.
The Spartans had four red zone trips against the Irish, with one resulting in a touchdown. They also had two field goals and a missed field goal.
"We weren't executing," he said. "I know the one play we had by Macgarrett that was a really nice catch by him, but another one we had a back shoulder call and it was a bad look. The corners eyes were on me and it's not the kind of look you want to get for the back shoulder.
"It's just execution. Once you get the ball in the red zone, you gotta execute and that's for touchdowns. You can't settle for field goals."
Junior running back Jeremy Langford has four rushing touchdowns this season – all of which have come inside the red zone. He said the team needs to finish more drives in touchdowns and it will take a team effort.
"Just getting the extra yards," he said. "Manning up and beating the man in front of you. Everybody making plays, the offensive line, the running back, the receivers, just make plays."
Cook said it is going to take practice and that MSU has the potential to finish those long drives with six points.
"We have the playmakers," he said. "We have the guys that can do it. We have the plays that can do it. It just takes practice and timing, just more experience. The more I'm in there working with the guys, working with the wideouts and we are on the same page, we can probably execute better."
Cook was 16 of 32 passing for 135 yards and a touchdown Saturday.