Connor Cook's Confidence Helps Michigan State Clinch Big Ten Title Game Berth

Andrew CoppensContributor INovember 23, 2013

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 23: Connor Cook #18 of the Michigan State Spartans passes against the Northwestern Wildcats on November 23, 2013 at  Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images

Michigan State's defense and the running of Jeremy Langford have been getting all the headlines in East Lansing as of late, but on Saturday quarterback Connor Cook showed why he's an equal part of the Spartans' success. 

In MSU's 30-6 win over Northwestern, Cook went for a career-high 293 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 69.5 percent of his passes (16 of 23) and showed why this offense has become more than just Jeremy Langford.

More than the numbers, Cook showed that he has emerged as a confident quarterback, something he wasn't earlier this season.

Just last week he threw for only 193 yards, completing a lowly 48.4 percent of his passes in the 41-28 win at Nebraska. Yet Cook showed his maturity and bounced back for a career day, leading his team at key moments.

Cook has gone from a quarterback unsure of his reads and receivers early on in the season to a guy who can do this:

Yes, we're talking about a double-play-action fake and near blind throw over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown to Josiah Price. 

That kind of a play doesn't happen earlier this season with Cook, but the play-fake touchdown pass is just one example of Cook gaining in confidence as this season has gone along.

Not only did Cook make that play, but in the second quarter, he floated one into the stiff wind at Ryan Field, only to see Bennie Fowler go up to get it over two defenders and go 87 yards for a touchdown. 

Quarterbacks who aren't confident in their own abilities or the receivers they are throwing to don't throw those kinds of balls. 

It isn't just this performance either; Cook has been on an upward trend since the beginning of the season. He has five games in Big Ten play of over 200 yards passing and is averaging 223.6 yards a game in conference. 

That puts Cook fourth in passing average in conference play, and he has 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions in seven conference contests. 

Cook has become more than Robin to Jeremy Langford's Batman. He's just as capable of carrying this team, and that showed on Saturday against the Wildcats. 

A confident Cook is a dangerous thing to see for opposing defenses coming up. Not only do they have to worry about Jeremy Langford taking this team on his back, but they must worry about the big-hitting pass game as well. 

The confidence Cook has in himself and his teammates makes the Spartans offense a very dangerous unit going forward, and you couldn't say that just a few weeks ago.


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter @ andycoppens.