Cook turns in career day in rout of Hoosiers
Final: No. 7 Michigan State 52, Indiana 26
Key play: R.J. Shelton’s fourth-quarter score
Connor Cook saved his best for last. A perfect ball to Shelton put away the Hoosiers in the fourth quarter in fitting fashion. It’s worth noting that the score came on a third-and-nine and gave MSU a 12-point lead with five minutes left. If MSU fails to convert that, it’s looking at a five-point lead with plenty of time for Nate Sudfeld and the IU offense to operate. The final score might not indicate it, but it was still anybody’s game with five minutes left. Credit Cook and Shelton for being on the same page in a critical moment.
Telling stat: MSU racks up 33 first downs
Drive after drive, Cook stepped up and moved the chains. MSU piled it on with the running game late, but the MSU rushing attack was non-existent for most of the afternoon. Without Jack Allen, the normally dominant Spartan offensive line struggled in both the passing game and the running game. It didn’t matter how many shots Cook took. He continued to step up and keep the MSU offense on the field by connecting with the likes of Shelton, Aaron Burbridge and Macgarrett Kings. It’s hard to believe that the nation’s winningest quarterback had 22 incomplete passes because he appeared to be on the money all day. As a result, Cook delivered a career-high 398 yards and fell just short of notching the school record. There were plenty of throws on Saturday that you’ll be seeing on Cook’s NFL draft tape.
–Jordan Howard is still banged up
After he was inactive for each of the last two weeks, the question coming into Saturday was whether or not Howard would play, and if he did, how effective would he be? Well, Howard played, but he was noticeably hobbled. He still rushed for over seven yards a carry and showed a burst on his 33-yard run with IU deep in its own territory. But that ankle is still clearly bothering him. It’s a good thing IU has a bye week because Howard could use it.
–IU’s defense once again fell apart in the fourth quarter
Last week, Indiana surrendered 22 fourth-quarter points in a devastating loss to Rutgers. That trend continued in East Lansing. IU allowed three touchdowns in the final five minutes and completely threw in the towel down the stretch. Tackles were missed and urgency lacked. It was a tall task to ask the Hoosiers to contain Cook on the road in the fourth quarter, but IU flipped the off switch when it became a two-possession game. It’s a shame that a unit that got big performances from T.J. Simmons and Marcus Oliver couldn’t finish on a better note.
What it means: Michigan State avoids sleeper loss, IU still can’t get enough stops
Hey, that’s two straight games that the Spartans covered the spread! Impressively, they did so without much of a run game and a banged up offensive line. That’s completely on Cook. He might’ve inserted his name back into the Heisman discussion after delivering like that. The Spartans will head into November undefeated, just as they hoped. The bye week could do the banged up Spartans wonders heading into the home stretch. Indiana, on the other hand, has not put together a complete defensive effort since the start of conference play. You have to be able to come up with stops to win in the B1G East, which IU can’t do consistently. The pressure will be on the Hoosiers to get two November wins and perhaps save Kevin Wilson’s job.