Opponent: Youngstown State Penguins
Date: Sept. 14, 2013
Location: Spartan Stadium - East Lansing, Michigan
Final Score: 55-17 MSU
All-time Matchup Record: Michigan State leads 2-0
Saturday will be the Michigan State Spartans’ third all-time matchup against the Youngstown State Penguins, with very little competition in games prior. Both teams enter the game coming off exciting opening week wins: YSU outlasting Incarnate Word in overtime, 44-41, and MSU with a statement victory against Northwestern in Evanston, 38-21.
MSU will head into this game with solid momentum, not so similarly to its 2013 matchup against Youngstown State. The Penguins were one of the better FCS teams that year, coming off a victory against Pittsburgh the season before.
In 2013, Spartans fans saw much of the same stagnant offense from the previous year in the first two games against Western Michigan and South Florida. In those games, the defense accounted for four of their six touchdowns and Michigan State quarterback rotation combined for a pitiful 210 total passing yards.
Good luck trying to convince anyone at that time this team would eventually smell the roses in Pasadena.
The lack of consistency and separation at the signal caller position provided little hope for a step forward from a 2012 season in which the Spartans barely made a bowl game. Much of the same personnel from an elite defensive unit returned, but questions remained on offense.
A quarterback competition between struggling senior, Andrew Maxwell and unproven youngsters, Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor was the obvious headline heading into the season. Cook provided heroic moments in MSU’s bowl game comeback effort versus TCU months prior and was expected to separate himself from the pack. Major separation did not occur until Week Three against the Penguins.
Michigan State dominated YSU in this matchup and provided a confidence boost to a team that desperately needed one. Although MSU would lose the week after at Notre Dame, this game represented a turning point for a Spartans team that needed to find their guy on offense — boy did they find him. With Cook under center, MSU would eventually win 10 straight games that season and two of the next three Big Ten titles.
Cook started for the first time in his career in Week Two versus South Florida, but split time with Maxwell and O’Connor. He made sure to leave no stone unturned in Week Three.
The Spartans struck first with excellent field position at the YSU 24-yard-line after a punt and a penalty from the Penguins to start the game. Jeremy Langford would run in an easy three-yard touchdown to give MSU a 7-0 lead.
Following a field goal from Youngstown State, Cook would hit Andre Sims for a 13-yard score and later find Trevor Pendleton on a flawless play action pass sequence to put Michigan State up 21-3.
Michigan State’s leading touchdown getter to this point in the season was defensive end Shilique Calhoun (anyone remember that?). Calhoun didn't score in this game, but did have a sack and fumble recovery that led to another Cook touchdown; this time, a 24-yard dime to Macgarrett Kings Jr.
Cook stayed hot all the way until halftime, finding Bennie Fowler with 1:50 remaining in the second quarter as the Spartans took a 35-10 lead into the half.
The second half began with continued dominance for Michigan State, as Nick Hill ripped off a 35-yard touchdown run on MSU’s first drive to put the Spartans up 42-10. Most starters on both sides of the ball would sit for the remainder of the game, including Cook who finished with 202 yards and four touchdowns. Michigan State finished with 547 total yards on offense, nearly surpassing the totals from the previous two weeks combined.