ALAMEDA – Raiders rookie quarterback Connor Cook played a lot of big games at Michigan State. He had a 34-5 record in three years as Spartans signal caller, with a Rose Bowl victory and two Big 10 championships to his credit.
He also played in the 2016 College Football Playoff, though that game against Alabama didn’t go so well.
Cook was known as a big-game player at Michigan State, something his college coach believes will help in his first professional start. That comes on Saturday at Houston, in the Raiders’ first playoff game since 2002.
“He’s been in the spotlight,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said Wednesday on NFL Network. “I know it’s an elevated level of play and it’s all relative and everything, but he’s played on a big stage and he’s had a lot of anxiety, big-game jitters and things like that and he’s played very, very well in those games. I think that’s going to serve him as well as anything as he takes this opportunity and has an opportunity play this weekend.”
Cook has several factors working against him in that Texans game, most notably a lack of NFL game experience and practice reps. He isn’t lacking poise or physical tools. Cook stands 6-foot-4, 217 pounds, can make every throw and has firm command in the pocket.
“He has a big arm. He can throw you open,” Dantonio said. “He’s a big guy as they probably all are in that league…He has a live arm and I think he prepares very well, at least on the college end of things. He’s very particular in terms of everything, wants it to be right. Could overcome a mistake – I think that’s as big as anything; he threw an interception and he bounced back from that and continued to play on through it. So I don’t think that he’s going to be intimidated by the scope of the game. That hasn’t been a problem for him when he was here. I expect him to play very well.”