Connor Cook Is No Stranger to Playing Hero for Michigan State

Andrew CoppensContributor IDecember 23, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 07: Connor Cook #18 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates a 34-24 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Big 10 Conference Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If you witnessed just the start of the 2013 season and were told Michigan State became the Big Ten champions, chances are you wouldn't believe it. 

What you likely saw was a defense that looked very good, with an offense that was awful, brutal, eye-gougingly bad. 

Enter Connor Cook as the starting quarterback, and suddenly the fortunes of the Spartans changed. 

It wasn't the first time, and it likely isn't the last time he's played hero for Michigan State though. 

Cook's entrance onto the college football landscape was a dramatic rescue of his Spartans in the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. 

All he did was lead an eight-play, 45-yard, game-winning drive in the 17-16 Spartans wins over TCU. It gave MSU a glimpse of what Cook could be capable of, but no one thought the magic would continue in the way it has. 

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 21: Louis Nix III #1 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish sacks Andrew Maxwell #10 of the Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Stadium on September 21, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Michigan State 17-13. (Photo b
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

He wasn't picked as the opening day starter despite working his magic to end the 2012 season. Instead, it was senior Andrew Maxwell getting the starting duties. 

Just a few weeks later though, Michigan State's offense needed rescuing and in came Cook to bail out a unit in desperate need of a spark. 

Cook had his ups and downs, even being pulled in the final drive at Notre Dame for Maxwell (it didn't work out well for the Spartans in case you forgot), but as the season went on, the offense found its rhythm under Cook's guidance. 

It ended with his selection as a second team All-Big Ten quarterback, a feat that had some scratching their heads. 

He finished the regular season with 2,119 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions—good numbers, but not exactly great. 

With all the attention on the other quarterback, Braxton Miller, it was Cook who stole the show. Something Cook promised would happen before the game, according to

"They can talk about the opposing quarterback all they want. I'll hang in the weeds, I'll just be over here working in practice,'' said Cook. "Underestimate me, say I've played bad and I'll be ready.'' 

Cook answered the bell, throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns on his way to leading his team back to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1989 and earning Big Ten Championship game MVP honors. 

All of this for a sophomore quarterback, whose 58 percent completion rate shows he's far from perfect. It's allowed him to remain humble, yet recognize that the doubters can be motivation for his magic. 

"Some people from my high school said I would never play at Michigan State, and grownups said I'd be lucky to get a scholarship,'' Cook said to earlier this week. "I think I've been proving people wrong since high school. But that's not my main goal.

"My main goal is to play football, a game I've loved playing since I was little, and my main goal has been to bring a victory to Michigan State every single week of the season.'' 

Without Cook, Michigan State isn't in this position and that's perhaps his greatest trick of all.

For Michigan State to beat Stanford and end a long streak of losing for the Big Ten, Cook will need to keep that work ethic in mind as he attempts to work his magic once again. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.