Column: With Cook in kitchen, MSU faces ND
MSU believes it finally found the proper recipe on offense with a guy named Cook.
The ingredients came together in the last of three appetizer matchups to start the season a week ago. Now in sole command of the kitchen, sophomore quarterback Connor Cook is challenged to serve up his first complete meal with No. 22 Notre Dame (2-1 overall) on the guest list.
Blowing out Youngstown State gave fans something to chew on, but like most snacks, it could prove to be empty calories. The Fighting Irish are a different beast, with a talent pool far superior to anything MSU (3-0) has seen this season.
“How we take the next step, we’re going to find out,” head coach Mark Dantonio said.
“… We’re going to find out a little bit more about who’s who. When I’m talking about that, I’m talking about our football team. A little bit more about us as people, as players, as coaches the farther we go in our schedule.”
One week isn’t much time to go from raw to ready-to-serve, so Saturday will tell how much more time MSU’s offense needs in the oven.
As it has for many years, the Notre Dame rivalry provides an early season measuring stick for MSU, which has lost three of the last four meetings.
There still is so much more to find out about this Spartan team, and the first respectable defense on the schedule should give insight to whether last week’s progress was fact or fiction.
The good news is even if Cook’s meal is spoiled — I’ll go ahead and get their favorite phrase out of the way before it becomes a fixture of the daily rhetoric — all of their goals remain in front of them. The Spartans still could cook up an appetizing run through the Big Ten, beginning at Iowa on Oct. 5.
Few will remember a half-baked performance in South Bend, Ind., if the Spartans are in the thick of the conference race come November.
Barring a devastating injury, the only detrimental setback would be a fried sense of confidence offensively, similar to what doomed some of MSU’s veterans. Dantonio eschewed his loyalty to older players to ignite a spark, and the young talent at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end has to be nurtured to avoid another disaster.
Dantonio and Co. settled on Cook as this team’s head chef after a lengthy evaluation. If they plan on smelling roses in January, they have to live through his mistakes and let him cook. After all, tomorrow will be just the third start of Cook’s career.
A win gives MSU credibility, but a loss doesn’t mean the sky is falling. The Spartans just need to keep mixing and matching their components until something edible emerges.
Like a gas station burrito, Cook’s performance doesn’t have to be good, it just has to get the job done. Unlike a gas station burrito, he should get better with time.
Stephen Brooks is a State News football reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org