The AT&T Stadium crowd thought for one quarter they were going to see a slugfest between Michigan State Spartans and Alabama Crimson Tide at the 80th Cotton Bowl Classic.
However, things quickly turned in favor of Nick Saban’s team as they dominated both sides of the ball the rest of the way shutting out the Spartans 38-0.
While Michigan State was able to slow down Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry to only 75 yards rushing, he did score two touchdowns. However, the story for the Crimson Tide was the play of quarterback Jake Coker who went 25-of-30 for 286 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio was asked following the game how this game played out much like their previous meeting five years ago.
“Well, as I said, I think they have a good football team, first of all.” said Dantonio. “But it was a closer game than that one, certainly, from my perspective anyway. They were able to run the ball much more effectively that time.
“But any way you cut it, at the end of the day if we were sitting in here and we lost by five points, people might be saying nice things about you a little bit more but we wouldn’t feel any better. So in the end, you take the loss. You deal with it. And I guess, like I’ve always said, you take some bad things with the good things that have happened to you before, too.”
Dantonio was quick to point out the loss was not on the shoulders of any one person or group.
“So we didn’t get it done collectively,” he said. “That’s as coaches. That’s as players. That’s as a program. But you remain focused on being positive, and you take the next step in life. And I think that’s what you have to do.”
Dantonio knows he lost a group of seniors that have left their legacy and will be missed.
“Unfortunately on our end disappointing,” he continued. “Want to congratulate our seniors on their careers. Connor Cook is 34-5 as a football player at Michigan State and their senior class won more football games than any other football team in the history of Michigan State. So want to congratulate them.”
While Cook did not play his best, he stressed following the game he was 100% healthy for it.
“I was 100%,” stressed Cook. “Shoulder felt the best it’s felt. There’s no procedure that needs to get done. There’s no surgery needed. There’s nothing. Back when I got the MRI, there was no structural damage. It was just a sprain.
“Credit goes to Alabama. Leading up to the game, you watch the film and the way their defensive line played, the way their linebackers filled the gaps, the way their secondary made plays in the pass game in the backend, everyone was aware how good of a defense they were.
“It felt like they were playing some good defense out there. The pass rush was there. Everything we saw on film was out there. But, obviously, we’ve got to go out there -- there’s no excuse for that. We’ve got to go out. We’ve got to execute. It’s on us to go out there and get open. It’s on me to go out there and make a pass that’s pinpoint accurate.”
Cook ends his Spartans career on a 19-of-39 passing night with two interceptions and zero touchdowns. He was also sacked four times on the night as the Bama defense was all over the field.
Michigan State ends with a 12-2 record with many wondering if they can put together the needed players to make another run like this one and take that next step to a National Championship game.