A few seconds was difference in win
The difference between Connor Cook and Devin Gardner is a few seconds.
Count slowly or it’ll pass you by. It’s the blink of an eye, a flash. Nothing more and nothing less than a brief moment in time.
But as the sophomore quarterback Cook stood back in the pocket on Saturday, confident with the time to look across the field as if parting the Red Sea against No. 23 Michigan, Gardner couldn’t help but drown in the wake of a wall of salt water.
Or at least it felt that way.
Gardner spent the better part of four rain-soaked quarters of football on his back, as No. 24 MSU’s top-ranked defense pummeled him for seven sacks in a dominant 29-6 Spartan (8-1 overall, 5-0 Big Ten) victory over the Wolverines (6-2, 2-2) at Spartan Stadium. Meanwhile, Cook passed for 252 yards and one touchdown to senior wide receiver Bennie Fowler, along with rushing for another in what he described as “the best I’ve ever felt playing the game of football.”
Head coach Mark Dantonio has won five out of seven games against Michigan since taking the position in 2007, taking every opportunity for his team to flex its muscles against its most important rival.
“It was a good football game, a well-played game in terms of two teams playing extremely hard,” Dantonio said. “We talked all week about keeping the lion in the cage, just peaking at game time.
“We were going to let the lion out of the cage at 3:30 and that’s what happened.”
It was a total and complete beatdown of one of college football’s most historic programs, making the “bullying” remarks about 2011 feel a bit misplaced — this was worse and the Wolverines knew it.
The Spartans didn’t just shake every bit of lunch money out of U-M, staying true to a mentality of a schoolyard goon. They also returned the highly-coveted Paul Bunyan Trophy to East Lansing and put themselves in prime position to win the Legends Division of the Big Ten.
But this game wasn’t all about the potential of what’s a few weeks down the road; it was about Michigan. And when it’s Michigan, it’s personal.
Much was made throughout the week about Michigan running back Fitz Toussaint’s “little brother” comment, echoing the words of former Wolverine Mike Hart.
Yet, as Gardner and the Wolverines looked as punchless against MSU as they ever have, including through the Rich Rodriguez and Denard Robinson years, senior linebacker Denicos Allen said the correct order of siblinghood gets determined on the field as it was on Saturday.
“We don’t really care too much about that because when we get on the field, it is us versus them,” Allen said. “You can call us what you want, call us little brother, big brother. But when it is on the field we show who is the big brother is and who is the little brother.”
Now heading into a bye week, it appears if the Spartans can defeat Nebraska on Nov. 16, they’ll likely win the Legends Division and book a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 7.
After the turmoil of a lackluster 2012 season, that’s saying something. The program isn’t lost. The sky isn’t falling. Not anymore, it seems.
However, being able to set themselves up to win the Big Ten and potentially receive a Rose Bowl bid — the first since 1988 — against the Wolverines is a special feat, one that should go down in the history books as one of the most impressive MSU wins against Michigan in rivalry history.
On Saturday, the difference between Connor Cook and Devin Gardner was a few seconds.
Now, it’s a few games in the Big Ten standings.
Dillon Davis is a State News football reporter. Reach him at email@example.com.