Connor Cook sure picked out a good time to have a career day.
Michigan State's sophomore quarterback, a preseason backup, went 24-of-40 for a career-high 304 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. He remained calm, even in the face of a fourth-quarter deficit, and helped push the Spartans to the Rose Bowl presented by Vizio. It will be the Spartans' first trip to Pasadena, Calif., in 26 years.
It was just the third time this season the Spartans passed more often than they ran. (Games against Iowa and Notre Dame were the others.) And Cook was just the third player to pass for more than 300 yards against the Buckeyes' secondary.
"I learned to never give up, to keep pushing no matter what the circumstances are," Cook told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg. "Score, situation, whatever stage you're on. I really didn't learn anything about our team, because this is the way we've been all year."
When the running game faltered early, Cook took over. And when Mark Dantonio called upon him in the fourth quarter, he didn't disappoint. He was able to find receivers downfield so often that 216 of his passing yards came on passes thrown 10 yards or longer.
He averaged 12 yards per attempt on those throws -- and 27 yards a completion -- compared to 5.6 yards an attempt. Cook completed 44 percent of those throws; Ohio State's Braxton Miller completed 20 percent.
Cook outplayed the Heisman hopeful when it mattered most for Michigan State. On the opening drive in the final quarter, Cook took his team 90 yards downfield to reclaim a lead it never gave up. He went 4-of-6 on that drive, throwing for 76 yards as his team rushed for just nine. (The remainder came on Ohio State penalties.)
On a critical third-and-8, he found wide-open tight end Josiah Price for a touchdown.
Statistically, it was the best game of Cook's career. He had never before thrown for 300 yards and only once before had thrown for three TDs against an FBS team (Illinois).