(USA Today Sports Images)Against Central Michigan on Sept. 8, Michigan State redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Cook completed 5-of-6 passes for 47 yards and an interception in a blowout win. Those were the only passes he threw all regular season.
With Michigan State trailing 16-14 with a little more than three minutes remaining in its bowl game against TCU, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio let the kid with practically no college experience lead his team to a victory.
Cook wasn't great on the game-winning drive, but he did enough to get the team into field-goal range. Then kicker Dan Conroy, just 22-of-31 during the regular season, nailed a 47-yarder with 1:01 left and Michigan State held on to win the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl 17-16.
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Michigan State wanted to get Cook some playing time in the bowl, but giving him that final drive with the game on the line was going to turn into the bravest or most foolish decision of the bowl season.
"He played well, he kept playing well, so we kept going with him," Dantonio explained to ESPN after the game.
Cook played on the game-winning drive instead of ineffective starter Andrew Maxwell. Before that drive he had attempted eight passes in the game - more than doubling his career total - and completed his first two passes of the drive for 26 yards. A TCU defensive penalty and a few Le'Veon Bell rushes got the Spartans into range for Conroy.
The modern wisdom from the statistics-minded crowd is that an extreme record in close games, good or bad, isn't due to some magical clutch ability or lack of clutchness, but based in large part on luck. Michigan State's last five losses this season were by a combined 13 points. The Spartans were due for some good luck. And Conroy, playing in his final college game, drilled the field goal.
Although Cook was just 4-of-11 for 47 yards in the game, he played a pivotal role in a dramatic bowl win. During bowl season there are always a few unlikely heroes. There probably won't be many more this season to rival a quarterback with six career regular-season attempts being left in to lead a game-winning drive.
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