Michigan State takes care of Maryland despite losing QB Connor Cook

Michigan State downs Maryland

Connor Cook leaves the game at halftime with a shoulder injury but does return in Michigan State's 24-7 win over Maryland.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Without star quarterback Connor Cook in the second half, No. 13 Michigan State ground its way to a 24-7 win over Maryland on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

Cook took a shot from a rusher in the first quarter and never appeared to recover the zip that he’s shown during the past several weeks. He missed one drive while trainers worked on his throwing shoulder in the first half. He returned to complete six of 20 first-half passes with an interception and no touchdowns. He spent the entire second half on the sideline wearing a headset.

The Spartans turned instead to junior Tyler O'Connor (6-for-11, 44 yards) to pilot an offense that routinely found itself in good position against the Terps. O’Connor led one touchdown drive before Cook’s injury, completing a 10-yard pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr. for the game’s first score. The Spartans added two more touchdowns, on an interception from linebacker Riley Bullough and a third-quarter drive that featured 11 straight running plays.

Maryland quarterbacks Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe both threw interceptions for an offense that added to the nation’s worst turnover margin with five giveaways Saturday. After slicing through the Spartans' defense for a 91-yard scoring drive early in the first quarter, the Terps didn’t cross midfield on their next eight possessions. When they finally made it into Michigan State territory, another fumble left them empty-handed.

Michigan State (9-1) recovered from last week’s last-second loss to Nebraska despite a slow day for the offense. The Spartans head to Columbus, Ohio, next week for a pivotal East Division matchup with No. 3 Ohio State, a game in which Cook's health will be far more important to the outcome.

What the win means for Michigan State: The Spartans remain in control of their Big Ten destiny after checking off another box at home. Two more wins will land them in the conference championship game. The big question is whether Cook will be at full health for the trip to the Horseshoe next Saturday.

What the loss means for Maryland: The Terps (2-8) are still searching for their first Big Ten win of the season and Mike Locksley's trial as interim coach isn’t going well. Maryland gets Indiana and Rutgers in the final two weeks of the season, but without better quarterback play it won’t be easy to find a victory.

Top play: The Spartans didn’t complete many passes, but Cook and Kings connected on one worthy of the highlight reel. Kings made a leaping one-handed grab for 28 yards early in the game. The completion was the longest of the day for Michigan State. Kings led the Spartans on Saturday with four catches for 48 yards.

Stat of the game: Today’s number to know is 32 -- as in the number of plays Michigan State ran from Terrapins territory in the first half alone. Nearly three-quarters of the Spartans’ 44 first-half plays came on the short side of the field -- including four consecutive drives that started from midfield or better.

Thirty-two is also the number of consecutive plays Maryland ran on its side of the 50 at one point during Saturday's game. After a first-quarter touchdown, the Terps' offense didn’t cross midfield again until halfway through the third quarter. Michigan State did little to take advantage of the lopsided field position, but it ate up enough clock to hold Maryland at bay.