The Spartans’ first drive of the game had an eight yard run by fifth-year senior quarterback Connor Cook. Although Cook did not appear to be injured on the play, his backup O’Connor was subbed in for the Spartans’ second drive of the game.
“The plan was that he’s our starter and he’s going to play, but I also believe that you need to take time at some point in time to bring someone else in and allow them to have the experience,” Dantonio said. “In my mind, in my mind — in mind it was going to be the second series and that’s what we did.”
The scenario of O’Connor at the helm became much more real, though, when Cook was tackled awkwardly onto his right shoulder late into the first quarter.
“I just landed on it funny and dinged it up a bit,” Cook said. “There was no popping out of any sort. They looked at it a little bit. I’ll be fine to go next week. I’ll be good.”
Cook came back into the game for two consecutive series during the second quarter, but the “eye test” said he wasn’t himself, especially after an uncharacteristic interception. Cook would sit out the remainder of the game.
“My sense was that he just didn’t have the velocity that he usually does on the football,” Dantonio said. “That was my sense. Then coming out in the third quarter, I still didn’t see that. You got to be able to throw the ball effectively. I think he was functional, but he wasn’t what he usually is. He was functional.”
O’Connor completed 6-for-11 passes with 44 yards and one touchdown and one interception on about 40 snaps in the game.
“It made me feel better to know that the coaches had enough trust in me to put the game pretty much in my hands in the second half,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor credited the offensive line for making his relief effort successful and said he will be much more comfortable with stepping into further games this season.
“Obviously, there was adrenaline. They were the first real snaps of the season at quarterback,” O’Connor said. “I really should’ve been more loose when I got out there.”
Cook’s chances of playing going forward appear to be solid, as both he and co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said the benching was for “precautionary reasons.”
“Connor (Cook) will be all right,” Dantonio said. “I don’t think there’s any sense that there’s longterm things there, he’ll probably be able to go on Tuesday and I think he could have gone, but he felt like if he threw it hard, it would set him back a number of days more.”
Dantonio said he was pleased with the way both O’Connor and sophomore quarterback Damion Terry played.
“They don’t stress — they get in there when the game is a little bit on the line and they have a presence,” Dantonio said. “Tyler (O’Connor) did a nice job, two touchdown drives especially on the second series. You know, getting us in the right play and executing in that series.”
Cook’s shoulder will have a week to heal before the Spartans take on Ohio State in Columbus on Nov. 21.