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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Detroit News: Cousins running out of time...

Time is running out for Michigan State's Kirk Cousins to make mark

/ The Detroit News
Kirk Cousins is in his third season as Michigan State's starting quarterback.
He has won more games for the Spartans than any other quarterback in the history of the program (23) and is seventh in winning percentage and ninth in career victories among active FBS signal-callers.
But as No. 13 Michigan State prepares to face Iowa today, many are wondering if the breakthrough is ever going to come for the fifth-year senior.
He has won plenty of games for the Spartans but has been inconsistent at times
throughout his career and has struggled many times on the road. But if there ever was a time for that big game on the road, today would be the perfect time.
The Spartans (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) control their destiny in the Legends Division and wins in their final three games would mean a berth in the Big Ten Championship game.
"We're right where we want to be," Cousins said. It's just a matter of finishing strong and getting these last few games in."
To reach the title game in Indianapolis, however, the Spartans, and Cousins in particular, will have to come up with a clutch performance at a place that has some nasty memories.
Michigan State was blown out last year at Kinnick Stadium against the Hawkeyes, and Cousins threw three interceptions with one being returned for a touchdown.
"We were in this position last year and it didn't pan out the way we wanted it to," safety Trenton Robinson said. "This year, we're just focused on getting it done. I'm truly excited about getting an opportunity to go back there and change it, make it the way we want it to be and not have to worry about all of the other stuff (tiebreakers). This is an exciting feeling."
Prime opportunity
If the Spartans are to end up in that position, it likely will take a big game from Cousins.
His numbers have been solid this season — he has completed 170 of 265 passes for 1,989 yards and 13 touchdowns — but in Michigan State's two losses he struggled.
He had big statistics against Notre Dame, but much of that came late when the game was out of reach. And against Nebraska, the entire offense had a bad day, including Cousins.
There will be plenty of pressure on Cousins today against the Hawkeyes, the only other team that controls its destiny in the division. He grew up an Iowa fan and his grandfather and great uncle played for the Hawkeyes in the 1940s.
But none of that amounts to Cousins trying to atone for last season's three-interception game, and coach Mark Dantonio made an effort this week to take some of that pressure off his quarterback.
He made players off limits to the media, the same policy he followed the week of Michigan State's win at Ohio State.
"There is a lot of pressure on the quarterback regardless of what team he plays for or who you are, but a lot of pressure on our entire football team," Dantonio said.
"… We need to get ourselves emotionally ready to play. They've had an opportunity to be interviewed at length these last few weeks, and I just felt like we want to go there fresh. As much as anything, we want to be fresh."
Dantonio doesn't think the pressure on Cousins has anything to do with last season's game.
"I think it's much farther than him individually competing against Iowa," Dantonio said. "It's more about our football team because he is the quarterback of our football team. There is so much he has to do. When you have a position like that, the chips are higher.
"But I think the concern or the focus has got to be what we have to do to stay on top of this division as we move forward.
"To me, if there's anything beyond that, it would be exciting and fun as opposed to challenging."
And while the Spartans haven't won at Iowa since 1989, Dantonio thinks his players will relish the opportunity to play in front of a hostile crowd.
"When you go away to play, you're in an environment where everybody's not cheering for you," he said. "But that should create a sense of excitement for you as well. When you go away and play an away game and they don't have many people in the stands, I would rather play in front of a packed house that's screaming against you."
Michigan State at Iowa
Kickoff: Noon today, Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, Iowa
TV/radio: ESPN2/WJR
Records: Michigan State 7-2 (4-1 Big Ten Legends), Iowa 6-3 (3-2 Big Ten Legends)
Line: Michigan State by 21/2
Series: Iowa leads 22-18-2 (Iowa 37-6, Oct. 30, 2010)
Did you know? Michigan State has lost seven straight at Kinnick Stadium.

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