Dallas – When Michigan State faced a fourth-and-2 from the Iowa 5 in the final minute of the Big Ten championship game, coach Mark Dantonio knew exactly the play he wanted to run.
Offensive coordinator Dave Warner was in lock step – they wanted to run the option to the short side of the field, a play they had used successfully in their last trip to the conference title game in 2013 when they knocked off Ohio State.
The only problem this time, with Michigan State trailing Iowa 13-9 in the final minutes, was that the guy running the ball didn't want to do it.
"There was a timeout and we're on the sideline and Coach D is on the headset and he's talking to Coach Warner," quarterback Connor Cook said Monday. "Coach D looks at me and is like, 'Connor, can you run it? Can you run the option?' I'm like, 'No, I don't think I can. No, no. Let's give it to LJ (Scott).' He's like, 'Connor says he can't do it.' Then I'm like, 'No, no, no. Let me do it, let me do it, let me get it.'
"Originally I said no. I was afraid and then I was like, 'You know, wait, I want the ball in my hands and we're gonna get it.' And luckily we were able to."
Cook kept the ball on the option and picked up just enough yardage to extend the drive, one that ended three plays later when Scott scored the winning touchdown from a yard out.
It led to No. 3 Michigan State's spot in the College Football Playoff and the Spartans are now preparing for Thursday's Cotton Bowl matchup with No. 2 Alabama.
Cook, who has been battling an injured right shoulder, said taking a shot to his throwing arm wasn't what gave him apprehension against the Hawkeyes.
"Not the shoulder at all," Cook said. "I think the main thing was just failure. I didn't want to get out there and not get the first down. Just being the competitor that I am in a big-time situation like that, anytime a quarterback can run the ball is an advantage to the offense and puts the defense on their heels. The more I thought about it, like two seconds went by and I'm like, 'Hey coach, let me run it.' I wanted it and luckily we got it."
Cook said again on Monday his shoulder is as good as it's been since he first got hurt on Nov. 14 against Maryland.