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Connor Cook gets MSU's historic offense back on track

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

University Park, Pa. — Remember when the Spartans couldn't score? It was only a couple of years ago.

But look at them now. With a 34-10 win over Penn State on Saturday, one of the top statistical defenses in the nation, the Spartans have scored at least 24 points in 14 straight games. Only Baylor and Oregon have streaks that long.

"We have made great progress," coach Mark Dantonio said. "It's coaching, it's players, it's players confidence, it's execution — there are a lot of different reasons for it. Maybe more than anything it's just a collective effort by everybody to move forward. We've been able to do that."

It also helps to have an experienced quarterback (Connor Cook), an elite running back (Jeremy Langford) and a big-play receiver (Tony Lippett) all coming of age at the same time. As Dantonio said during the week, "Experience and success really breeds further accomplishments. I think that's what's happened to them."

Even before Saturday, this offense was established as the most potent in school history, setting records for points, touchdowns and total offense. And with two Langford rushing touchdowns Saturday, they now own that mark, too, with 40 this season.

"The last two years you think about where our offense has changed and moved, we have just continued to grow," Dantonio said.

The Penn State game demonstrated that the growth isn't always reflected in statistics.

Against a nationally ranked defense, the offense looked disjointed and out of rhythm in the first half. But in the second, they marched the ball efficiently for touchdowns in the first two possessions to seal the win.

Credit to Cook for the turnaround.

"That's a player grounding himself, taking everything in and saying, OK, let's go back out there," Dantonio said. "He's got enough experience. He knows what to do."

Cook was 4 for 13 with an interception in the first half and the team had a season-low 122 total yards.

"The main thing that was said at halftime was we can't keep shooting ourselves in the foot with unforced errors," Cook said. "My interception, penalties — we took care of those things in the second half."

Cook was 9 for 12 for 128 yards and a touchdown in the second half and the offense produced 176 total yards.

"It was play-calling a little bit," Cook said. "We got a jump by passing on first and second down. That always helps. I just refocused, regathered myself and went out there with no fears."