staff, October 5, 2013

Entering a matchup against the seventh-ranked rush defense in the country, Michigan State figured it would need to have success in the air to have any shot at winning its Big Ten opener Saturday at Iowa.

In his fourth start, quarterback Connor Cook stepped up to the challenge en route to leading the Spartans to a 26-14 win. Cook set career highs in completions (25), attempts (44), and passing yards (277) against a Hawkeyes defense that allowed just 186 yards per game in the air entering Saturday.

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The Spartans offensive line stymied Iowa?s pass rush as it didn?t allow a sack. That allowed Cook to pick the Hawkeyes apart in the pocket, where he completed 62 percent (23-37) of his passes for 225 yards.

Connor Cook passing vs. Iowa
Comp/Att %
Inside hash marks
3/9 33% 47 1-1
Outside hash marks
22/35 63% 230 1-0

The numbers show that Cook struggled with his accuracy in the middle of the field, completing just 33 percent (3-9) of his passes and throwing his only interception inside the hash marks.

However, one of his three completions in that area went for a 46-yard touchdown pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr. in the second quarter. That marked the longest play from scrimmage this season by the Spartans, who entered Saturday as the only FBS team without a 40-yard play this season.

Outside the hash marks, Cook was sharp. He completed 63 percent (22-35) of his attempts for 230 yards and the other of his two touchdown passes.

With the win, the Spartans have won back-to-back meetings in Iowa City for the first time since 1987 and 1989.

Watch Kings' big TD catch:

About Ernest Tolden Ernest Tolden is a Studio Researcher for Big Ten Network and a blogger who covers Big Ten football and men?s basketball for Ernest is a native of Chicago, Illinois. Follow our BTN stats team on Twitter via @BTNStatsGuys.