Big Ten

Spartans' Connor Cook: 'I'm going to be ready to go' vs. Buckeyes

connor-cook-1117.png

Spartans' Connor Cook: 'I'm going to be ready to go' vs. Buckeyes

There might be no more talked-about shoulder in America this week than the one belonging to Connor Cook.

The Spartans’ quarterback — probably the best quarterback in the Big Ten this season — had himself a weird game last weekend in Michigan State’s win over Maryland. After playing the first series, he then came out for backup Tyler O’Connor. Then Cook went back in and was hit in the shoulder, injured to an extent that he was seen screaming in pain on the sideline. He came back in the game and played poorly for the remainder of the first half, apparently affected by that shoulder injury. Then he sat out the entire second half.

All this with Michigan State’s biggest game of the season looming this weekend against Ohio State.

But after the win over the Terps, head coach Mark Dantonio said he was confident Cook would play and play well against the Buckeyes. Cook said he wasn’t affected by the shoulder injury at all and that it was precautionary.

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern's Fitzgerald finds lack of respect for Hawkeyes 'baffling']

Well, Dantonio and Cook faced more questions about the quarterback’s health on Tuesday, and their stances didn’t change.

Dantonio stuck with his postgame assessment, saying he had a 9.5 out of 10 confidence that Cook would play, while also doing his usual “we don’t talk about injuries” thing.

Cook remained adamant that he would play.

“My shoulder is good,” Cook said, “I'm going to be ready to go so there is no issue with that.”

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Spartans gear right here]

Cook’s status is of obvious concern given how effective he’s been this season. In the four games prior to the Maryland game, Cook threw for a combined 1,428 yards and 11 touchdowns. Last weekend, in limited in action, he completed six of his 20 passing attempts for 77 yards and no touchdowns, also throwing an interception.

The stakes are incredibly high Saturday. If Michigan State wins, a win in the regular-season finale against Penn State would give the Spartans an East Division championship and a trip to the Big Ten title game, where a win could send them to the College Football Playoff. If Michigan State loses, it will be eliminated from the Big Ten East and Big Ten championship races.

So, with all that on the line, plus the already tremendous task of going up an Ohio State defense that ranks among the nation’s best, it’s obviously a huge game.

And one Dantonio thinks Cook will play well in.

“I don't think there is that kind of pressure that needs to be put on Connor Cook,” Dantonio said. “I think he's established himself here as one of the greatest quarterbacks, if not maybe the greatest quarterback, certainly one of them, in the history here He's won more games than any other quarterback. He's played on a big stage. He's won a Rose Bowl and been the MVP. He's won a Big Ten Championship Game and been the MVP. He's played extremely well across the board throughout his career here, so I don't think it's fair to say this one game will define him.

“I think this is another opportunity to establish his legacy. I think he will play well. He's always played well on a big stage, and I think he will have confidence to play well.”

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

jeremy_larkin.jpg
USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

anderson.jpg
USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.