Cook's late touchdown pass gives MSU 14-3 halftime lead over Illinois
CHAMPAIGN,ILL. – After last week’s performance against Purdue, sophomore quarterback Connor Cook left many with more questions than answers.
This week, it’s safe to say he’s hellbent on answering a few of them.
Cook completed passes to nine different receivers including a late touchdown to senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler and at halftime, the Spartans (6-1 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) lead Illinois (3-3, 0-2) 14-3 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Ill.
Cook finished the first half 10-for-11 passing for 111 yards and a touchdown, while junior running back Jeremy Langford led the rushing attack with 13 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Fighting Illini kicker Taylor Zalewski capped a strong drive with a 31-yard field goal, giving Illinois a 3-0 lead out of the gates.
After using Jeremy Langford sparingly on the first drive, which ended in a punt, head coach Mark Dantonio turned to the junior running back to carry the bulk of the load the next time on the field. Starting from Illinois’ 44-yard line, Langford took six consecutive carries for 39 yards to set the Spartans up in the red zone for the first time on the afternoon.
However, sophomore quarterback Connor Cook took the next carry from scrimmage near the goal line with an option play to the left and fumbled, handing possession back to Illinois to end the first quarter.
But it wouldn’t take long for MSU’s defense to pick up a fumble of its own.
With Illinois opening the second quarter with the ball, sophomore defensive end Shilique Calhoun blew up wide receiver Ryan Lankford on a reverse run in the backfield, forcing a fumble recovered by junior defensive end Marcus Rush.
On Cook’s first pass coming off the fumble, he hit redshirt freshman Jamal Lyles for an 18-yard reception, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Langford to take the lead.
Cook took back-to-back sacks on the final drive of the half before lobbing up a ball to Fowler, who caught the 29-yard reception after it was tipped by Illinois defenders. MSU’s final drive of the half spanned 15 plays for 99 yards, making it a two possession game headed into halftime.