EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — For most of the game, it felt as if Michigan State was one play away from being in real trouble.
Connor Cook never let it come to that.
Cook threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns, and No. 7 Michigan State remained undefeated with a 52-26 victory over Indiana on Saturday. Cook threw all four of his touchdown passes on third down, and he fell just short of the school record of 400 yards passing, set by Bill Burke in 1999 against Michigan.
“I just felt like I was in the zone,” Cook said.
The Spartans (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) never trailed in the second half, but it was touch and go until Cook found R.J. Shelton for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 4:57 remaining to give Michigan State a 12-point lead.
The Spartans tacked on two more TDs to avoid an upset a week after their unforgettable win at Michigan. Michigan State has won 12 in a row for the first time since 1956. This run matches the third-longest winning streak in school history.
Indiana (4-4, 0-4) was outscored 24-0 in the fourth quarter.
Griffin Oakes missed two extra points and a field goal for the Hoosiers, and they allowed over 50 points for the second consecutive week. Nate Sudfeld threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns for Indiana.
Cook was even better. Just on third down, he went 10 of 15 for 139 yards, according to STATS. On a day when Michigan State struggled to run the ball until the very end of the game, Cook was under pressure to perform. He was brilliant.
“It’s just a very, very intense feeling of focus — that’s all I can really describe it as,” Cook said. “You just feel like every throw is on the money, every read is correct, is right. And you’re just throwing the ball with conviction.”
The Spartans won by double digits for the first time in Big Ten play. Their victory last weekend — when Michigan’s punter fumbled a snap on the final play and the Spartans scored a touchdown — was the talk of college football, but Michigan State didn’t need any last-second dramatics this time.
“One of the things we try and point towards is — how will we play after a big moment?” coach Mark Dantonio said. “We make a big deal about that.”
Michigan State trailed 7-0 in the first quarter when Cook threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Shelton right as it began to rain hard at Spartan Stadium. The sheets of rain prevented Indiana from doing much of anything on its next possession, and then the downpour eased when Michigan State got the ball back.
The Spartans took a 14-7 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Delton Williams. Sudfeld answered with an 11-yard scoring pass to Ricky Jones, but Oakes missed the extra point.
Cook and Sudfeld traded touchdown passes in the final two minutes of the half, and with Michigan State up 21-20 early in the third, Cook slipped a pass to tight end Josiah Price for a 13-yard touchdown on third-and-goal.
“He throws to covered receivers that have reasonably tight coverage. He puts the ball where his guy has a chance,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. “If you were to talk to a pro scout or pro coach, they would talk about challenge throws, and when the guy’s really getting challenged, the ability to not throw at the guy but put it where his player can make a play.”
The Hoosiers breezed back down the field, scoring on Sudfeld’s 3-yard pass to Andre Booker, but another missed extra point left the score at 28-26.
Indiana wouldn’t score again. Cook’s second touchdown pass to Shelton made it 38-26, and after that Michigan State finally began asserting itself on the ground. LJ Scott scored on a 26-yard run, and Gerald Holmes scored on a 22-yarder as the Spartans turned the game into a rout in the final minutes.