It didn’t take long for Michigan State wide receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. to realize how big Saturday's game vs. Iowa was for his team.
“Bennie [Fowler] and I were just talking on our way to the airport to come home and we were like, ‘We really balled today. This was a turning point,’ ” Kings told ESPN.com “We just have to keep moving forward from this point on.”
In that 26-14 win over the Hawkeyes, Michigan State finally showed a balanced offensive attack for the first time this season.
By no means, however, did that performance completely change the perception of the Spartans' offense, but it was a game that left fewer unanswered questions.
“We were still looking to put a couple things together in our pass game, we were running the ball pretty well,” Kings said. “We were just looking to get everything together in the pass game and I felt like we got that accomplished.”
Sophomore quarterback Connor Cook had his best performance of the year and Dantonio finally saw the kind of consistency in his play that he wants out of an MSU signal caller.
“I was excited about his progress from really the Youngstown State game to the Notre Dame game to this game,” Dantonio said. “We’re pretty confident he’s going to continue to rise his level of playing. As he gets more experience, he’ll be more comfortable. And I think when you do get in that period when he’s extremely comfortable, I think you’re going to see an outstanding quarterback that can do a lot of things.”
Cook passed for two touchdowns and 277 yards (25-of-44), and threw just one pick.
But what was impressive was how the sophomore grew and built confidence throughout the game.
Twice Michigan State got within Iowa’s 30-yard line in the first quarter, but the Spartans walked away scoreless. The Spartans, however, kept their composure and trusted that big plays were going to come as Cook settled into his rhythm.
And Kings believes that same kind of improvement will happen as the season moves along and Cook gains chemistry and confidence with his offense.
“It has been a relief just knowing that we have one quarterback who’s going to be the guy, not switching quarterbacks,” Kings said. “[We’re] getting to know the rhythm, the timing, where we’re going to be, where he’s going to put the ball.”
Cook’s passing was complemented by a run game that helped moved the ball down the field, averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
Kings believes that between the Spartans' run game and Cook's pocket presence and down-field demeanor, they’ll be an offense that can be go up against any Big Ten defense.
This weekend, Michigan State will have that chance against the Hoosiers.
Indiana beat Penn State last weekend, 44-24. It was a more of a shootout than anything else, however, as the game notched 50 first downs and nearly 900 yards of total offense.
In that win, the IU defense has showed that opponent yards don’t necessarily means points or a win. Indiana held Christian Hackenberg to 11-of-22 on third downs and 1-of-5 on fourth downs. It’ll be looking to do the same to Cook and his offense, while the Spartans will be looking to build on their performance against Iowa.
“We’re looking to prove that this weekend against Indiana,” Kings said. “Indiana is a great program, but we’re just looking to go out and do what we do best -- run routes, get open and catch the ball, and keep our defense off the field, show that we can be a dominant offense.”