Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Spartans roll into Big Ten title game

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Connor Cook began waving his arms, motioning for the crowd to yell louder.

Michigan State had turned its final home game into a blowout, so Cook didn't need the fans to be quiet as he lined up to take another snap.

"I was trying to have fun with it. It's our last time in Spartan Stadium," the senior quarterback said. "I just wanted to get the crowd into it, because I knew Jack was going to score."

The No. 6 Spartans capped their home finale by letting senior center Jack Allen run for a touchdown, and Michigan State wrapped up a spot in the Big Ten title game with a 55-16 victory over Penn State on Saturday. It was the most emphatic win of the season for the Spartans, who play unbeaten Iowa for the conference title next weekend with the winner most likely headed to the College Football Playoff semifinals.

The Spartans finished tied atop the Big Ten East with Ohio State, but MSU, with Cook sidelined because of a shoulder injury, upset the Buckeyes last weekend to hold the tiebreaker.

The quarterback came back Saturday and went 19-of-26 for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

"Sitting out stunk," Cook said. "Obviously, I've been very fortunate to be able to play in a lot of games and not have to sit out. That was a reality check."

It was 41-16 in the fourth quarter when Malik McDowell intercepted a pass that had bounced off fellow defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun. McDowell ran it back 13 yards for a touchdown.

After a Penn State fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the Spartans the ball at the 9, Cook took the field and Allen lined up next to him in the backfield. The Nittany Lions couldn't stop the 296-pound lineman as he rumbled to the end zone.

Allen said that call was in the playbook for "about five minutes."

"Credit to the offensive coach and the O-linemen," he said. "They got it done."

"I think that we're playing our best football down the stretch," MSU coach Mark Dantonio said. "If you compare us with last year's Big Ten champion, that's what they were able to do."

Ohio State took the Big Ten last season and went on to win the national title.

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