Cook steps up big on his biggest stage yet

Sophomore quarterback continues to be resilient and made big plays for Spartans on Saturday to lead them to the Big Ten title.

Resilient might as well be Connor Cook's middle name.

Hardly a moment with the media goes by in which Mark Dantonio doesn't refer to the Michigan State sophomore quarterback as resilient.

But it was easy to see why again Saturday against Ohio State.

The sophomore bounced back from midgame struggles to lead the Spartans to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives when the team needed them most.

And he just keeps getting better and the 34-24 win in the Big Ten title game was just the latest example.

"He hasn't been fazed by negative things that happen as a quarterback," quarterbacks coach Brad Salem said. "Those things are going to happen but he just really stays tuned in and when things happen he's ready for the next play.

"That's the biggest thing. Regardless of good or bad on the previous play you've just gotta tune it in and make things happen."

Bad things. Like 4 of 10 passing for 19 yards in the third quarter kind of bad.

Like an interception on MSU's opening drive of the third quarter after Ohio State tied the game 17-17.

"He was unfazed with some of the things that happened earlier in the game and just kind of hung in there and stepped up and made big throws when he needed to," Salem said.

Big throws. Like a long pass play to MacGarrett Kings early in the fourth quarter.

Like a third-down touchdown pass to end that 90-yard drive to Josiah Price to give MSU the lead.

Or maybe the biggest: A third-down pass to Tony Lippett for a first down to set the stage for Jeremy Langford's 26-yard touchdown run to seal the victory.

"Just make smart decisions and put my team in the best position possible and don't make any critical errors being down," Cook said of leading the 90-yard drive.

That he did and in the process he moved to 11-1 as a starting quarterback and threw for a career-high 304 yards in the biggest game of his career to-date.

Not bad for a quarterback who was in a four-man battle at the start of the season and was named MVP of the Big Ten Championship Game a few months later.

"Emotionally, it's surreal," Cook said. "It's things you dream about as a kid. You dream about playing Division 1 football. You dream about leading your team to a Big Ten championship. You dream about being able to play in a Rose Bowl.

"Where I was at in September, my confidence wasn't that high and once we got games rolling and the offense started clicking, the confidence started to get bigger and bigger.

"The journey has been cool with me, but as a team the journey among all of us has been better."

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