By NOAH TRISTER/AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – The game was tied late in the fourth quarter, with the ball at midfield.
It was only a spring game, but that’s still a scenario Connor Cook embraces.
“The game’s on the line – we got a nice crowd like we did today, nice weather,” Cook said. “It makes things a lot more fun, more challenging. It makes certain players rise to the occasion.”
Cook threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Price with 27 seconds left to lift the White team to a 20-13 victory over the Green team Saturday. Michigan State players drafted teams for the spring game earlier in the week, which made for a fairly competitive contest.
Cook, who led the Spartans to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory last season, threw for 159 yards and two touchdowns, although he was also intercepted twice.
Here are five takeaways from Michigan State’s spring game:
UNDISPUTED LEADER: It took Cook a while to emerge as Michigan State’s No. 1 quarterback last year, but he finished the season with 22 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. Cook will be a redshirt junior in the fall, and the Spartans may have as much stability behind center as any team in the Big Ten.
Cook was intercepted twice in Saturday’s scrimmage, but he was sharp in the first quarter in leading the White team to an early 13-0 lead. He also directed the winning drive at the end.
“He’s a very confident player,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “I think he’s got a big upside in terms of what he can do with the football – not just throwing the ball.”
TERRY’S TIME? When Michigan State’s offense struggled early last season, fans chanted for freshman quarterback Damion Terry. That turned out to be premature – the offense improved without Terry, and he ended up redshirting.
But now the Spartans may be able to use both Terry and Cook to keep defenses off balance. Terry played for both teams Saturday, completing a couple passes for the Green team. He also took a handoff and scored on a 23-yard run for the White team in the first quarter.
“We see certain people using two quarterbacks in systems,” Dantonio said. “We’ve got a little package together, so there’s different things that we do. But it’s always nice to see what he can do out there.”
DANDY DEFENSE: The Spartans had one of the nation’s top defenses last season, and although they lose linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen as well as defensive backs Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State still expects to be formidable.
Shilique Calhoun, who emerged as a standout on Michigan State’s defensive line last year, had two sacks for the Green team Saturday. Defensive end Demetrius Cooper, who redshirted in 2013, impressed as well.
“He’s gained weight, and he’s understanding his role in the defense,” Calhoun said. “He’s still keeping the skill set, he’s using it, and playing within our defense.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: It was not a banner day for this unit. Punter Mike Sadler was out because of a knee issue, leaving kicker Michael Geiger to handle most of the punting. His longest of the day was 33 yards.
Geiger did make two field goals, but kicker Kevin Cronin had an extra point blocked and missed a 27-yard field goal attempt. Geiger had a miss from 38 yards.
ALL IN GOOD FUN: Since this was just a scrimmage, there was room for goofiness. During the second half, Sparty – the Michigan State mascot – lined up at tailback, took the ball and ran into the end zone while the defensive players let him go.
The play didn’t count, though.
“Sparty will probably redshirt,” Dantonio said.
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