Nov 28, 2015 8:53 PM
Michigan State takes division with 55-16 rout of Penn State
The Associated Press
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) Connor Cook began waving his arms, motioning for the crowd to yell louder.
Michigan State had turned its final home game into a blowout, so Cook didn't need the fans to be quiet as he lined up to take another snap.
"I was trying to have fun with it. It's our last time in Spartan Stadium," the senior quarterback said. "I just wanted to get the crowd into it, because I knew Jack was going to score."
The sixth-ranked Spartans capped their home finale by letting senior center Jack Allen run for a touchdown, and Michigan State wrapped up a spot in the Big Ten championship game with a 55-16 victory over Penn State on Saturday. It was the most emphatic win of the season for the Spartans, who will play unbeaten Iowa for the conference title next weekend. The winner will be in good position to advance to college football's playoff.
Michigan State (11-1, 7-1) is No. 5 in the selection committee's ranking.
The Spartans finished tied atop the Big Ten East with Ohio State, and Michigan State upset the Buckeyes last weekend with Cook sidelined because of a shoulder injury. The star quarterback came back Saturday and was brilliant against Penn State (7-5, 4-4). Cook went 19 of 26 for 248 yards and three touchdowns.
"Sitting out stunk," Cook said. "Obviously, I've been very fortunate to be able to play in a lot of games and not have to sit out. That was a reality check."
Michigan State will play in the Big Ten title game for the third time in five seasons. The Spartans also kept the Land-Grant Trophy with their most lopsided win in a series with Penn State that started in 1914.
It was 41-16 in the fourth quarter when Malik McDowell intercepted a pass that had bounced off fellow defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun. McDowell ran it back 13 yards for a TD.
After a Penn State fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave the Spartans the ball at the 9, Cook took the field and Allen lined up next to him in the backfield. The Nittany Lions couldn't stop the 296-pound lineman as he rumbled to the end zone.
Allen said that call was in the playbook for "about five minutes."
"Credit to the offensive coach and the o-linemen," he said. "They got it done."
Ohio State, which easily beat Michigan earlier Saturday, was holding out hope that Penn State would spoil the regular season finale in East Lansing, but the Nittany Lions didn't come close. Michigan State had to play both Michigan and Ohio State on the road this year. The Spartans beat the Wolverines when Michigan botched a punt on the final play, and they edged the Buckeyes on a last-second field goal.
Saturday's game was decided well before the final minutes. It was 20-10 at halftime, and the Spartans scored the only two touchdowns of the third quarter. Cook threw a 29-yard scoring pass to Aaron Burbridge to make it 27-10. Burbridge came back in from out of bounds officials ruled he was forced out and caught the pass around the 10. He bounced off one defender and spun past another before diving into the end zone.
"I think that we're playing our best football down the stretch," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "If you compare us with last year's Big Ten champion, that's what they were able to do."
Ohio State took the Big Ten last season and went on to win the national title.
Cook was hurt two weeks ago in a win over Maryland. He said he was able to practice Thursday, and against Penn State's formidable pass rush, his offensive line kept him out of harm's way.
"Didn't get touched once," Cook said.
Penn State moved the ball well in the first half but lost two crucial turnovers. Arjen Colquhoun intercepted a pass in the end zone on the game's first drive, and the Spartans turned that takeaway into a touchdown when Cook threw a 29-yard pass to R.J. Shelton.
The extra point was no good, and Penn State kicked a short field goal early in the second quarter, but Michigan State went ahead 13-3 on a 6-yard touchdown run by Gerald Holmes. Then Demetrious Cox of the Spartans picked up a fumble and returned it 77 yards for another TD.
"They were able to dictate the game to us, especially with their offense," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "Then the turnovers with our offense put the team into a difficult position."
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.orgpt