East Lansing — As Michigan State prepares to host Penn State on Senior Day on Saturday, there likely won’t be any clear indication of which player will start at quarterback.
Fifth-year senior Connor Cook injured his shoulder Nov. 14 against Maryland and then had his streak of 36 consecutive starts ended last week at Ohio State. Junior Tyler O’Connor stepped in to get his first career start and was joined by sophomore Damion Terry as the Spartans beat the Buckeyes, 17-14.
With the Big Ten East Division title on the line at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, it looks like a decision on which quarterback will be under center might not be made much earlier than 3:29 p.m.
“It's hard to assess those things until you get to game day,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “It really is. Because it hinges on very small things, I think.”
The small thing is how hard Cook, the winningest quarterback in Michigan State history, will be able to throw the ball. Much of that could be determined during the week of practice, as it was last week when Cook didn’t throw until pregame warm-ups at Ohio State.
If he can’t go, the Spartans (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) likely will feel some sense of comfort with the way O’Connor and Terry played last week. O’Connor was especially effective, leading the bulk of Michigan State’s scoring drives.
But Terry had flashes and played well at time, also. It all adds to the mix when Dantonio makes his final decision as to which player, or players, to have at quarterback on Saturday, and how many snaps each might take.
‘I think there is a possibility for all those certainly,” Dantonio said. “We'll see how it all shakes out. It's sort of hard to say when we're sitting because Tuesday, haven’t practiced, don't know. So I would assume that things are moving forward.”
Davis seeks sixth year
Dantonio said fifth-year senior linebacker Ed Davis intends to petition for a sixth year of eligibility when the season ends.
Davis injured his knee in preseason camp and was lost for the season.
“Ed intends to come back for a sixth year, and I think he qualifies for that,” Dantonio said.
Davis was primed for a big season after recording seven sacks and being named honorable mention All-Big Ten last season.
Dantonio added offensive lineman Brandon Clemons and defensive tackle Damon Knox also intend to seek a sixth year of eligibility. A foot injury kept Clemons out for most of the 2012 season while Knox was limited by a back injury last season.
“Ed and Damon will go out for Senior Day to get double recognition, I guess,” Dantonio joked. “But their intentions, I think, are to come back and they're good players and that strengthens our football team.
“That's the plan, anyway. But obviously you have to submit all the paperwork and they have to graduate as well.”
Bowling for Penn State
Penn State coach James Franklin said the Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3) have a tremendous opportunity this week as they have a chance to go into a bowl game with a win and end Michigan State’s hopes at winning the division.
He understood, however, how difficult that might be.
“You could make an argument maybe (Michigan State is the) top program in the conference right now,” Franklin said. “No. 6 team in the country on the road, a team that finds a way to win. You look at their Michigan win this year, you look at their Ohio State win on the road, you know, they've got a culture of winning that they've established now.
“They have talent on offense, defense and special teams and at each level, and they play smart. They play smart, and they play sound football.”
Last week was big for Michigan State’s 29 player from the state of Ohio, just as big as the game against Michigan was for those who are from the Great Lake State.
This week’s matchup with Penn State has the same sort of intensity for seven Spartans.
Clemons, safety Demetrious Cox, tight end Paul Lang, safety Montae Nicholson, offensive lineman Casey Schreiner, Terry and running back Delton Williams all hail from Pennsylvania.
“This is an important game,” Dantonio said. “This is their game to measure up. This is the game that is their Ohio State game or Michigan game if they're from the state of Pennsylvania. So that's going to be very exciting for them.”