Behind Connor Cook, Michigan State Has an Unbreakable Look

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You could almost hear all of East Lansing draw in its breath. Quarterback Connor Cook hit the turf just minutes into Michigan State’s trouncing of Jacksonville State Friday, his knees take out from underneath him by a dirty, low tackle.

One Big Ten team considered a contender for the College Football Playoff already lost its quarterback, with Ohio State losing Braxton Miller for the season to a shoulder injury. The conference didn’t need the fast-rising Connor Cook sidelined a few minutes into the season.

The cheap shot wasn’t enough to keep Cook from throwing a 64-yard touchdown pass on that particular possession–nor was it enough to keep him off the field for Michigan State’s next drive, which culminated in a 71-yard score.

Credit Adam Kramer for summarizing Cook’s remarkable return to the field, in the process indirectly christening a perfect, new nickname: Wolverine.

OK, maybe Sparty faithful would recoil at their star quarterback sharing a moniker with their hated, in-state rivals.

But think about: Michigan State is known for a hard-nosed style of play and aggressiveness reminiscent of the most popular member of the X-Men. And what better way to commemorate the Spartans’ takeover of the state’s football landscape than by co-opting Michigan’s nickname?

If he continues to trend in his current direction, Connor Cook can have just about any nickname he wants. While his three-touchdown night came at the expense of an FCS opponent, there remains quite a bit to take away from it.

Since taking over a stagnant Michigan State offense partway into the 2013 season, Connor Cook has steadily progressed from reliable game manager into potential game-changer.

Cook’s play for much of the 2013 campaign could be best described as “meh.” But as the challenges became stiffer, Cook’s Adamantium claws came out.

His best efforts of the season were reserved for the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State and the Rose Bowl against Stanford.

Make no mistake: The Spartans were in position to play those high-profile games for two reasons, neither of which was quarterback play. Reason No. 1 was Pat Narduzzi’s always stellar defense.

Reason No. 2 was the punishing ground attack, powered by Jeremy Langford.

However, if the defense was Michigan State’s Colossus and the run game its Cyclops, the wins over Ohio State and Stanford showed just how dangerous these X-Men are with their Cook as their Wolverine.

And presiding over it all, of course: Mark Dantonio as Dr. Xavier.

For the less nerdy among The College Football Huddle’s readership, I won’t belabor the comic book analogy further. Hopefully you get the idea.

If Connor Cook continues to slice up secondaries as he has for Michigan State’s last three games dating back to last season, the Spartans are national championship contenders.