Backup Spartans quarterbacks fill in with flair

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Columbus, Ohio — Tyler O’Connor said he slept great on Friday night, even better than his roommate — Connor Cook.

It was the night before Michigan State’s showdown with Ohio State, and that’s when the junior backup to Cook found out he would likely be starting at quarterback for the Spartans on Saturday.

It wasn’t a guarantee. Cook would test the right shoulder he injured last week against Maryland one more time before the game, but it was pretty clear: O’Connor and sophomore Damion Terry would be carrying the load against Ohio State.

“I had an idea,” O’Connor said. “The reps (during the week) were more in Damion and I’s favor, but it was never for sure. Even this morning Connor was going to give it a go.

“I got the opportunity and I texted my family and said, ‘Hey, you’ll see a lot more of me tomorrow.’ It was a blessing to have the opportunity. To play in a stadium like this against a team like this is incredible.”

O’Connor was as effective as he was efficient, teaming with Terry to lead No. 9 Michigan State to the 17-14 victory over No. 2 Ohio State. O'Connor was 7-for-12 passing for 89 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown to fullback Trevon Pendleton. He also ran eight times for 25 yards.

Terry only threw four times, completing one for 2 yards. But he ran well, also picking up 25 yards on eight carries.

“I can’t say enough about our players,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “Two quarterbacks went in and did an excellent job. Didn’t flinch. That was what this was all about.”

In warm-ups, it was clear Cook wasn’t 100 percent. O’Connor and Terry took most of the snaps and by the time the game started, Cook was wearing a headset while his understudies took the reins.

“No one thought at the beginning of the year that me and him would be playing at Ohio State,” Terry said. “Connor came to us and said, ‘Hey, be confident. It’s just another game, like another day at practice.’ He’s always competing and everything he’s done here … he was great. He made us feel comfortable before the game, last night, the whole week. It was awesome.”

It was difficult for Cook as his 36-game starting streak ended, but he never doubted how well O’Connor and Terry would perform.

“Obviously I’m a competitor and want to go out and compete, no matter the circumstances,” Cook said. “But seeing Tyler go out there and play and Damion go out there and play and do well, it was awesome. They’re guys I’m super close with and really good friends with. I think we have the best room of all the positions on the team. The chemistry, the laughter in the meeting room, how often we hang out outside of practice.

“To see them go out and succeed against a top team like that and win in Ohio, especially for Tyler being from Ohio, it is personal for guys like us. To see him go out there and get the W was just great.”

Cook said it was simply soreness in the shoulder that kept him from playing Saturday and he’ll continue to work to get back for the season finale against Penn State next week.

“It’s just a sprain right now,” he said. “Rest it and rehab it to get back to full strength and be back out there throwing again. The only thing that held me back was a little bit of pain. So get back in the treatment room this week and get after it, and try and get it back for next week.”