EAST LANSING — No. 13 Michigan State got back to winning ways after defeating Maryland 24-7 Saturday afternoon at Spartan Stadium. With senior quarterback Connor Cook on the sideline for the majority of the game, the Spartans defense proved to be the difference in the game forcing five turnovers, including a pick six by Riley Bullough.
“We played extremely well on defense,” said coach Mark Dantonio “We pressured the quarterback, forcing five turnovers and getting two fourth down stops, so I thought we played well on that side of the ball.”
As well as the defense played, all eyes were on the all-time winningest Spartan quarterback. Cook was sidelined in the second quarter as a precaution, after landing awkwardly on his arm from an earlier hit.
“He (Cook) didn’t have the arm strength coming into the second half to be able to go full go. You have to throw the ball effectively,” Dantonio said.
Except there seemed to be confusion throughout the first half since Dantonio decided to give junior quarterback Tyler O’Connor a chance to gain reps and lead the Spartans offense, even before Cook’s injury.
“I believe at some point you need to take the time and bring someone else in to give them experience,” Dantonio Said. “So in my mind we were going to give him (O’Connor) time during the second series. So that’s what we did.”
Not only did the sudden change shock many, but the backup QB was confused with the call as well.
O’Connor eluded to the fact he heard the call over the headset, “I was caught off guard just like you guys were.”
Even though he was surprised with the switch, O’Connor worked out the jitters of playing in his first game, and settled in, marching the Spartans offense to the first score of the game. O’Connor to Macgarrett Kings Jr. capped off a ten play, 50-yard drive to notch the Spartans ahead 7-0 in the first quarter.
“I should’ve been more loose to start out the game, that’s on me. But after that, once I did get settled in, I felt very confident,” O’Connor said.
Confidence was key on the touchdown pass to Kings, since O’Connor needed to go through his reads, step up in the pocket, and deliver a strike to the wideout.
“Kings had a great route, expanding the corner. He was the last option so it was a good thing he was open,” O’Connor said.
However, all the focus is fixed on Columbus for next week’s showdown with the third-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
“All year long we pointed out this game, it’s like a playoff situation,” Dantonio said. “We knew if were 10-0 or 9-1 heading into Columbus, we would control our own destiny. And we are at that point.”
The No. 13 Spartans go on the road to face the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes next weekend. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised on ABC.