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Michigan St going with QB Connor Cook vs Iowa despite struggles

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio ended months of competition and speculation last week, announcing sophomore Connor Cook as the starting quarterback. Cook started the Spartans' last nonconference game Saturday at Notre Dame, but was pulled on MSU's final offensive possession in favor of senior Andrew Maxwell.

Dantonio said earlier this week that Cook is still the team's No. 1 quarterback, and also said Wednesday the two have talked about his late benching in South Bend. MSU (3-1) is off this week and returns Oct. 5 for its Big Ten opener at Iowa.

"We've had our conversations," Dantonio said. "Of course, you talk to all your players, especially the ones that are in positions of leadership. It was a good talk."

Maxwell started all 13 games at quarterback for the Spartans a year ago, but couldn't hold on to the starting position once Dantonio opened it up for competition this fall. Then, with MSU trailing 17-13 at its own 33 with 2:11 remaining, Dantonio decided to go with Maxwell for the Spartans' final drive at Notre Dame.

Maxwell threw two incomplete passes prior to back-to-back delay of game and false start penalties, then ran 8 yards on fourth-and-20. Cook completed 16 of 32 pass attempts for 135 yards and one touchdown Saturday, and Dantonio was asked earlier this week if Cook's confidence took a hit due to the late switch.

"I would hope not," Dantonio said. "I put him in the game. We started him. We had confidence coming out of the last game. We put him in a big game against Notre Dame and kept him in there for 58 minutes. That's significant confidence. He struggled at times throughout the game and we didn't lift him. I think that's important to recognize that fact."

Cook has now started three straight games for the Spartans, including home wins over South Florida and Youngstown State. But Saturday's loss in South Bend was his first true game as the starter, as MSU also rotated redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor and Maxwell early this season. Those two players will now compete for the backup job in practice.

"Right now we'll see whether it's Maxwell or whether it's Tyler O'Connor, based on practices this week and next week," Dantonio said.

MSU ranks 104 in the nation with an average of 340.8 offensive yards per game.