The lack of execution running and throwing in the fourth quarter allowed Nebraska to put a scare in Michigan State late into the game, as the Huskers outscored Michigan State 19-0 in the fourth quarter and had a chance to win the game before Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong was intercepted by cornerback Trae Waynes.
Cook said the Michigan State offense took “a couple steps back” in the win.
“I think we laid off some of the passes in the second half but that’s not an excuse for us not executing,” Cook said. “We’ve gotta execute the run-game when someone’s number is called. When it’s power, when it’s whatever, we’ve got to execute.
“When my number is called and we’ve gotta pass and Keith Mumphery is running a dig over the middle and he’s wide open, I can’t throw it at his feet.”
Cook has struggled with Nebraska in the past. He has only two career starts where he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, and both are against Nebraska. He finished 11 of 29 for 234 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Cook admittedly was inconsistent throughout the game, completing some difficult throws in tight coverage but also missed throws he usually makes.
Coach Mark Dantonio knows Cook will bounce back strong like he has in the past.
”Connor probably didn't play his best football game,” Dantonio said. “But he will regroup and play extremely well his next time out. That is just his nature.”
Dantonio gave credit to the Nebraska defense for keeping Michigan State’s offense out of rhythm more so than any other team so far this year.
”The consistency that has been there wasn't today,” Dantonio said. “You have to credit Nebraska too because they were ready.
”We didn't run and pass the ball as effectively as we have and they held our offense in check more so than any other game this year.”
The Spartans had three offensive touchdowns – all on plays of 30 yards or more. The first score was a familiar sight as Cook hit wide receiver Tony Lippett for a 55-yard touchdown in the first quarter. It was the seventh time the pair has connected on a touchdown score this year, with at least one in every game.
Jeremy Langford then scampered 31 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter, giving Michigan State a 14-0 lead. Lippett accounted for his second touchdown of the day when he took a double reverse untouched to the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but that was it for Michigan State.
Offensive coordinator Dave Warner said those big plays helped Michigan State, but they never really got too comfortable on offense.
”I don't know if we ever got in any rhythm,” Warner said. “I mean, we scored points the first half, but I never felt that we were in any rhythm.
”Hats off to Nebraska, they did a very good job defensively and we were just able to hit some big plays. I think that's the difference in the game.”
Senior offensive guard Travis Jackson knows the potential of this team but said they must learn to finish better.
”We’ve got to take the good with the bad and focus on that and fix that,” Jackson said. “We know we have great potential to be a really good team and that’s just something that we’ve got to do through finishing in the fourth quarter.”