It has been 49 long grueling years since Michigan State football fans have seen their beloved team be ranked as high as second in the polls. The last time the Spartans have been this highly ranked was in 1966 – which so happens to be the last time Michigan State clinched a national title.
Tomorrow the No. 2 Spartans look to remain unbeaten and will play host to the Central Michigan Chippewas at Spartan Stadium.
Standing in their way is Lansing native, Cooper Rush.
It will be a welcome home party for the 6-3, 227 pound quarterback since Rush attended Lansing Catholic High School before attending Central Michigan.
In high school, Rush was a three-year starter and led Lansing Catholic to a 13-1 record, and a state runner-up finish in 2011. He was selected to play in the MHSFCA East-West All-Star game in 2012, and his play on the field earned him 16 single-season and 20 career school records. His accolades also include a Gatorade Michigan Football Player of the Year and an Associated Press Division 5/6 Player of the Year as a senior.
Nonetheless Rush was not recruited by Michigan State so perhaps there will be a bit more riding on this game for the quarterback.
“Rush makes it go for them. He has great poise. He is big with a strong arm and he has experience. He will be a great challenge for us,” Coach Mark Dantonio said.
So far this season the junior has thrown for 983 yards and five touchdowns, and with a depleting secondary, Rush will look to exploit that.
On the opposite sideline, the man running the offense for the Spartans, which at this point has been nothing short of a well-oiled machine finds himself hungry despite the number two ranking.
“No matter what our ranking is, we are going in each game with the same mindset,” senior quarterback Connor Cook said.
Throwing for 695 yards and eight TD’s, Cook keeps the offense rolling, especially when number 18 finds his favorite target – senior wideout Aaron Burbridge.
Burbridge has been the main target over 50% of the time this season hauling in 20 receptions for 374 yards, and four TD’s. Yet, Cook was skeptical at the beginning of the season due to the foot injury the receiver suffered this spring.
“As a receiver, all you do is run. So to take two months off without running and come back without missing a beat I was really happy for him. He is only going to get better,” Cook said.
Switching gears – despite a fast 3-0 start, the three wins haven’t been all sunshine and rainbows.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Spartans have been outscored 28-10 giving opportunities to their opponents.
“They all count one. Coach D preaches that philosophy. We know we are going to get the best shot from everyone we face this season,” Cook said.
“We haven’t played our best ball yet – we aren’t satisfied,” sophomore linebacker Jon Reschke said.
This is the last tune up game for the Spartans before plunging into Big Ten Conference play, but the mentality is the same. Just win.
“We line up and play. We don’t take anyone for granted, because everyone has a shot. We are focused on taking care of our business,” Dantonio said.