Column: Cook had cinematic bounce-back after rough Purdue outing
CHAMPAIGN, ILL. – Connor Cook’s performance in Saturday’s 42-3 win at Illinois was something straight out of a movie.
Not in the traditional hero-versus-villain sense, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he was hiding a cape beneath that white MSU jersey with the record-setting day he had throwing the ball.
Cook recorded his best game as a Spartan by far, completing 15 of his 16 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns, setting a new school record for passing completion percentage (93.8 percent) in the process.
It’s ironic – and refreshing, for MSU – his breakout game came seven days after the worst game of his young career, a sloppy 14-0 win against Purdue in which he barely completed 50 percent of his throws for just 107 yards.
That’s where the Hollywood connection comes from. Cook’s redemption reads just like a scene from “Dumb and Dumber” starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
After Carrey’s character in the film, Lloyd, strands the pair of friends in the middle of nowhere only to return with an escape rope in the form of a rickety scooter, Daniels’ character Harry delivers a classic line that felt appropriate after what happened at Memorial Stadium.
“Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this,” Harry said, “… and totally redeem yourself!”
The public perception of Cook’s quarterbacking ability has seemingly taken a roller coaster trajectory. Against the Illini he showed his coaches, teammates and fans they can feel safe hitching themselves and their hopes to his scooter and riding it all the to Pasadena, Calif.
To be clear, that isn’t a literal shot at Cook’s intelligence – nor is it a guarantee MSU will go to the Rose Bowl. But he did prove that isn’t out of the realm of possibility, as once imagined.
“Coming off the performance that I had last week, obviously I was upset and really focused on things I need to get better (at) in practice,” Cook said. “But I just always believe in myself, have faith in myself and I told (head coach Mark Dantonio), I was like ‘Don’t worry, we’ll be OK.’ Because I have full belief in myself.”
The Spartans imposed their will on weaker competition, which is what everyone expected against the Boilermakers last week. MSU was able to rebound from a disappointing outing, secure a dominating road win and showed no signs of looking ahead to the showdown with rival Michigan this Saturday.
Regarding that matchup, the stakes just got higher. The Spartans stand alone atop the Legends Division pecking order following Nebraska’s loss to Minnesota earlier in the day.
MSU’s next three opponents are UM, Nebraska and Northwestern, forming the teeth of this schedule. Against the Illini, Cook made sure no other quarterbacks start warming up on the sideline the rest of the season – as was the case amid his struggles last week.
“Connor got better,” Dantonio said.
“When you’re a young player, you have a chance to sit back, regroup, re-establish yourself and move forward – and he’s got tremendous talent. He was off a little bit throwing the football last week. But he’s able to regroup himself and move forward, and that’s being young, that’s youth.”
The Illini clearly are a lesser opponent than the Wolverines, but MSU definitively looked like the class of the division on Saturday. The question going forward is can it look like that every Saturday?
But after the way the Spartans flexed their muscle in Champaign, Ill., their odds to smell roses seem a lot better than Lloyd’s million-to-one chances of getting with Mary.
“So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”