By NOAH TRISTER/AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Connor Cook threw four touchdown passes in the first half, and the Michigan State offense finally looked smooth in a 55-17 victory over Youngstown State on Saturday.
Cook went 15 of 22 for 202 yards before being replaced by Tyler O’Connor early in the third quarter.
Michigan State (3-0) needed one of its quarterbacks to show progress after the defense accounted for four of the team’s six touchdowns in the first two games. Cook looked sharp, albeit against an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision, and now the Spartans can prepare to play Notre Dame next weekend.
Kurt Hess was 11 of 27 for 121 yards and a touchdown for Youngstown State (2-1).
Cook, O’Connor and Andrew Maxwell shared the quarterbacking duties in Michigan State’s first two games, and none of them overwhelmed. Before the Spartans’ first offensive possession Saturday, some fans were already chanting for freshman quarterback Damion Terry, who hasn’t played yet and can still redshirt.
Terry wasn’t needed Saturday. Cook started and led Michigan State to a 35-10 halftime lead.
Cook’s first drive didn’t require much – the Spartans took over at the Youngstown State 24-yard line after a punt and a penalty on the Penguins. Jeremy Langford’s 3-yard touchdown run opened the scoring.
After a Youngstown State field goal, Cook threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Andre Sims. Later in the first quarter, Cook faked handoffs to two different teammates on one play before finding Trevon Pendleton for a 12-yard touchdown.
Shilique Calhoun, the Michigan State defensive end who already has three touchdowns this year, didn’t score any Saturday, but he did have a sack and a fumble recovery in the first half. The latter was immediately followed by Cook’s 24-yard TD pass to Macgarrett Kings that made it 28-10.
Cook added a 17-yard scoring pass to Bennie Fowler with 1:50 remaining in the second quarter.
It’s hard to say how much of a step forward this was for Michigan State, which finished with 547 yards of offense. Youngstown State is one of the better teams in the FCS, and the Penguins beat Pittsburgh last season. But the real test for the Spartans comes next weekend at Notre Dame.
Nick Hill rushed for 83 yards on nine carries for Michigan State, including a 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Langford added a 2-yard scoring run that made it 49-10.
Martin Ruiz ran for a 5-yard touchdown in the second quarter for Youngstown State, and he caught a 34-yard TD pass from Hess in the third.
Michigan State equaled its highest-scoring game since a 61-14 victory over Illinois in 2005. The Spartans have now scored 55 points three times since then.
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