This article was originally written by Matthew Argillander and appeared in The State News on October 5, 2015. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
Looking for a spark in the 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU, head coach Mark Dantonio made a switch at quarterback by putting in Connor Cook, a redshirt freshman at the time.
The Spartans would go on to win that game 17-16, but they found so much more. Cook rode momentum from that appearance and after he was named the starting quarterback next season he never looked back.
Two full seasons, one Big Ten championship, one Rose Bowl win and one Cotton Bowl win later, Cook is the winningest quarterback in MSU history.
With 28 wins, Cook passed Kirk Cousins on the all-time wins list after Saturday’s 24-21 victory over Purdue. Cousins, who many Spartan fans consider to be one of, if not the best quarterback in MSU history, went 27-12 as a starter.
Cook is now 28-3 as a starter. Cook didn’t just surpass Cousins on the win list. He did it with only a quarter of the losses and more than half of a season remaining. All Connor Cook has done since he became the starter is win.
“I want to congratulate Connor Cook for winning his 28th game as a Michigan State quarterback, which is an all-time record in the history of this program,” Dantonio said after Saturday’s win. “Quarterbacks are here to win. They’re not here for statistics. They’re here to win. He’s done an outstanding job.”
Dantonio talked about what Cook’s accomplishment means not just for an individual, but for the program as a whole.
“Well, first of all he passes Kirk Cousins, who was here as well in our time,” Dantonio said. “In my mind, it’s great vindication for a quarterback, but it’s also a program thing for our entire program. What it means is that this program has won at an unparalleled level for a number of years.
“Both of those guys have been our starting quarterback for three years. For them both to do that says a lot about the other people that were playing with them. That’s something sort of an individual accomplishment, but it’s also a group accomplishment because there’s a lot of getting the ball to them. It’s the defense, it’s the offense, it’s the people surrounding them, it’s the special teams — a lot of wins, though.”
Cook was on the same page as his coach. He was proud of the moment, but gave a lot of the credit to being on great teams.
“It’s a great accomplishment and it means a lot, but a lot of the credit goes to being on the team with a great defense,” Cook said. “In 2013, we won 13 games and we had a heck of a defense, the number one defense in the country. Being on great teams like last year, when we had the explosive offense we had and the great defense we had.
“It’s a credit to all the guys that are on the team. Football is a team sport. One word that comes to my mind when you think of football is just `together,’ the togetherness you have in the locker room and on the field. It’s a 100 percent team sport.”
Redshirt senior linebacker Darien Harris came in the same recruiting class as Cook. Harris remembers former Spartan and current Cincinnati Bengal Darqueze Dennard seeing something in Cook before anyone else did.
“That’s big time,” Harris said. “Especially for somebody like Connor, a guy that I came in with. It’s crazy thinking back to when he first got here.
“I’ll never forget Darqueze Dennard saying that (Cook) was going to bring us a national title. (Dennard) obviously has a fantastic football mind and he just saw something in Connor that maybe a lot of people didn’t see.”
Cook hasn’t brought that title that Dennard talked about yet, but MSU has gone to new heights in his time as the starter and at 5-0 on the No. 4 ranked team in the nation, Dennard’s prediction is a possibility.