Five Takeaways: Northwestern edition

Michigan State's offense is clicking and there are multiple reasons and more lessons from Saturday's win at Northwestern.

1. Connor Cook just keeps getting better

The sophomore quarterback has steadily been improving since his first start and it really all began at Iowa. Since then he has stubbed his toe against Purdue, but been on the rise every other game.

Cook has been keyed success and making better throws every game. The drive that concluded with a Josiah Price touchdown featured a pair of NFL-level throws, with the best being a 20-yard throw to Keith Mumphery.

2. Dave Warner is coming into his own

Perhaps the most impressive element of Michigan State's win was Warner's play calling. As Cook has grown, so has Warner. He has opened up the play calling and gotten more creative. The misdirection plays and draws he implemented against Northwestern were newer wrinkles that haven't been used much, but were highly successful.

The best play was the Cook to Price touchdown. A play fake and a fake pitch, plus a great sell from Cook on the play action and a strike to Price for a touchdown. It was in the red zone, but not too cute – which has been an issue at times. Warner is doing it recently.

3. Offensive line wears teams down

Scout.com's Northwestern publisher Nick Medline told me before the game he expected Jeremy Langford to run for eight yards per carry because Northwestern run defense gets tired. He turned to me in the second quarter and noted how tired they were already. That is a credit to the offensive line, which paved big holes for Langford all day and blocked it to the letter.

Best example: Langford's 20-yard touchdown run which featured great downfield blocking on a counter draw and he was basically escorted into the end zone by Fou Fonoti.

4. This coaching staff is great at making in-game adjustments

Northwestern presented challenges early for MSU, as players said postgame they showed things they had no prepared for or seen on film. But MSU came out in the second half and held the Wildcats to just 95 total yards and just 18 yards rushing.

Pat Narduzzi might be as good a defensive coordinator as there is, but lately he has shown that when MSU gives up some early yards that he can adjust in-game and shut it down.

5. It is much sweeter to win a title outright Michigan State entered Saturday needing a win in its final two games or a Minnesota loss. MSU played first Saturday and took care of business, leaving nothing to anyone else to do for them. That's the way MSU wanted to handle it and it means a lot more to celebrate in a win and knowing you clinched it.


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