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Three Spartans Accept Senior Bowl Invitations

Kirk Cousins, the winningest quarterback in school history, compiled a 27-12 record in 39 career starts, including a 22-5 mark over his final two seasons.

Jan. 19, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Three Michigan State seniors - quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Brian Linthicum and safety Trenton Robinson - have accepted invitations to play in the 2012 Senior Bowl, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala. Cousins, Linthicum and Robinson will represent the North team, led by Minnesota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier and his coaching staff. NFL Network will televise the 63rd annual Senior Bowl from Ladd-Peebles Stadium at 4 p.m. EST.

Cousins, the winningest quarterback in school history, compiled a 27-12 record (.692) in 39 career starts, including a 22-5 mark over his final two seasons. He became only the second three-time captain in MSU history (Robert McCurry, 1946-48) and the first Spartan starting quarterback to win three-straight games over Michigan.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Cousins ranked among the Big Ten leaders in touchdown passes (tied for second with MSU single-season record 25), passing yards (second at 236.9 yards per game), passing efficiency (third with a 145.1 rating) and total offense (fifth at 234.1 ypg.). He also finished among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leaders in passing efficiency (30th) and total offense (49th). He completed 267-of-419 throws (.637) for 3,316 yards, 25 TDs and 10 interceptions. Cousins, a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the league's head coaches, had a school-record tying 11 200-yard passing games in 2011, including the last six games in a row. He was named one of 10 finalists for the Manning Award.

"The Senior Bowl provides a great opportunity for me to showcase my skills against some of the best players in the country," Cousins said. "I enter the NFL Draft process feeling somewhat overlooked and underestimated, but that's nothing new for me. It's a familiar feeling, but I'm excited to get back to work to prove myself all over again on another level. I'll be one of six quarterbacks there, one of three on the North squad. So every one of these guys had very highly decorated college careers. With so many NFL coaches, GMs and scouts watching, it will be a high-pressure, high-energy environment, and I'm excited to be a part of it.



"The Senior Bowl is a great chance to be around NFL personnel, and you get to spend quality time with them. It's hard for NFL personnel to really be able to open you up to know what you're all about until they can spend some time around you. So that's the advantage of being at the Senior Bowl. It attracts so many NFL people that it's a great opportunity to show people what you're all about: how important football is to you, how passionate you are about the game and how you're committed to being the best possible player and person you can be in their organization if they choose to draft you. So hopefully in the time I spend next week in Mobile (Ala.), I'll be able to show that to the NFL people and be able to impress a great deal of coaches, GMs and scouts."

In his final game in a Spartan uniform, Cousins completed 27-of-50 throws for 300 yards, one score and three interceptions in MSU's 33-30 triple-overtime victory over No. 18 Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl. It marked his fifth career 300-yard passing game. His 7-yard TD strike to Keith Nichol midway through the fourth quarter gave MSU its first lead over the Bulldogs at 20-19. Trailing 27-20 with 1:55 remaining and no timeouts, Cousins engineered a 10-play, 85-yard drive, as the Spartans rallied to send the game into overtime on Le'Veon Bell's 1-yard TD run with 14 seconds left in regulation. He accounted for 84 of MSU's 85 yards on the scoring drive, connecting on 6-of-8 passes for 64 yards and scrambling for another 20 yards.

In the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin, Cousins completed 22-of-30 passes for 281 yards and tied his career high with three TD passes - all to B.J. Cunningham (30, 7 and 44 yards) - while setting MSU's single-season record in the process. He also became MSU's all-time leader in completions with his 22 in the game. In addition, Cousins became just the third Spartan quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season, joining Jeff Smoker (3,395 in 2003) and Drew Stanton (3,077 in 2005). He went 15-of-17 for 181 yards and two TDs in the first half against the Badgers.

He connected on 14-of-20 throws for 214 yards, two TDs and one interception in leading MSU to the outright Big Ten Legends Division title, thanks to a 31-17 victory at Northwestern. After a slow start (1-of-4 for 9 yards), Cousins completed 13 of his last 16 passes for 205 yards, including scoring strikes of 33 and 29 yards to Cunningham. He also rushed four times for 25 yards, including two scrambles (21 and 8 yards) for first downs.

In his last game at Spartan Stadium, Cousins completed 16-of-23 throws for 272 yards in the 55-3 win over Indiana on Senior Day. He also tied his career high with three TD passes (63 and 7 yards to Cunningham; and 47 yards to Keshawn Martin).

Cousins hit 18-of-31 throws for 260 yards and three TDs in MSU's 37-21 victory at Iowa, as the Spartans recorded their first win in Iowa City since 1989, ending a seven-game losing streak in Kinnick Stadium. He became just the second Spartan quarterback to eclipse the 8,000-yard career passing milestone. Cousins also tied his career high with three TD passes, including first-half scoring tosses of 6 and 22 yards to Cunningham and 17 yards to Edwin Baker.

Cousins completed 23-of-34 passes for 296 yards and two TDs in MSU's 31-24 victory over Minnesota. On the final drive of the first half, he went 6-of-8 passing for 66 yards, including a 2-yard TD toss to fullback Todd Anderson on a first-and-goal play. Cousins completed passes to four different receivers during that eight-play, 74-yard drive that last 52 seconds.

He became the winningest quarterback in Spartan history with MSU's dramatic 37-31 victory over No. 4 Wisconsin on Oct. 29. It marked his 22nd career victory, breaking the mark previously held by Smoker, who recorded 21 wins from 2000-03. In addition, Cousins was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week after connecting on 22-of-31 throws for 290 yards and three TDs against the Badgers, including his 44-yard Hail Mary pass to Nichol on the final play of regulation. The three TD passes matched his career best. In addition to the game-winner to Nichol, Cousins completed scoring passes of 35 yards to Cunningham and 15 yards to Martin.

Cousins completed 20-of-32 passes for 250 yards in MSU's 10-7 victory at Ohio State, as the Spartans ended a seven-game losing streak against the Buckeyes and posted their first win in Columbus since 1998. His 33-yard TD strike to Cunningham in the back of the end zone gave MSU a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

He completed 13-of-22 throws for 213 yards, one TD and one interception in MSU's 45-7 victory over Central Michigan.

Cousins set personal bests for pass completions (34) and pass attempts (53) at Notre Dame. His 329 passing yards are the most ever by a Spartan quarterback against the Irish (previous record: 327 yards by Drew Stanton, 2005). His 34 completions are second-highest single-game total in MSU history (school record: 35 by Jeff Smoker vs. Ohio State, 2003) while his 53 attempts are fifth-best figure in school history.

Cousins connected on 18-of-22 throws for 222 passing yards in the 2011 season opener against Youngstown State, including an 18-yard TD strike to Cunningham late in the third quarter that gave MSU a 21-6 lead. He completed his first six pass attempts for 114 yards.

The Holland, Mich., native ranks first in MSU history in pass completions (723), passing yards (9,131), TD passes (66), passing efficiency (146.1), 200-yard passing games (26) and total offense (9,004 yards). He also is listed among MSU's all-time leaders in pass attempts (second with 1,128), completion percentage (second at .641; 723 of 1,128) and passing yards per game (third at 202.9). Cousins also ranks among the Big Ten's all-time Top 10 in completion percentage (tied for sixth), passing efficiency (seventh), passing yards (10th) and TD passes (tied for 10th).

Brian Linthicum set career highs for receptions (31) and receiving yards (364) in 2011.

The 6-5, 245-pound Linthicum earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches after establishing career highs for receptions (31) and receiving yards (364). He started 13 of 14 games in 2011 and his 31 catches ranked fourth on the team. Linthicum caught at least one pass in each of his last nine games.

He set career highs in both receptions (7) and receiving yards (115) against No. 18 Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl. Linthicum became the first Spartan tight end to post a 100-yard receiving game since Kellen Davis had four catches for 106 yards in the 2007 regular-season finale against Penn State, and his 115 receiving yards were the fifth-highest bowl total in MSU history. He caught a 2-point conversion pass from Cousins after MSU's first touchdown against the Bulldogs and turned a screen pass into a career-long 50-yard gain that set up a go-ahead TD midway through the fourth quarter.

Linthicum was selected National Tight End of the Week by the John Mackey Award and College Football Performance Awards after catching five passes for 71 yards in MSU's 37-21 victory at Iowa. Four of his five receptions against the Hawkeyes resulted in first downs. Linthicum's 10-yard grab from Cousins late in the second quarter set up Bell's 25-yard touchdown run as MSU built a 24-7 lead. Early in the third quarter, his 28-yard reception from Martin helped set up Dan Conroy's second field goal, a 31-yarder, as the Spartans took a 34-7 lead.

He had three receptions each at Northwestern (31 yards) and against No. 4 Wisconsin (58 yards).

The St. Louis, Mo., native transferred to Michigan State following his freshman (2007) season at Clemson. Linthicum, who started 26 of 39 career games for the Spartans, caught 69 passes for 860 yards (12.5 avg.) and three TDs. His 69 receptions (fifth) and 860 receiving yards (sixth) rank among the top career totals for tight ends in MSU history.

"Brian Linthicum has outstanding hands and pass-catching ability, plus he's a tremendous blocker," Cousins said. "Brian played in a pro-style offense at Michigan State, where he was asked to do much of what will be expected from him at the next level. He can block in the run game, catch screens and go down the field and make plays in the passing game. We utilized him like most NFL teams would use their tight ends. He looks great on film, and now NFL coaches, scouts and GMs will have a great opportunity to evaluate him up close.

"Brian is a selfless guy, who played through a lot of injuries and fought through adversity, and those are the things they're looking for in the pros. The fact he got a Senior Bowl invite is a great testament to the work that he did at Michigan State."

Trenton Robinson tied for the team lead in interceptions (4) and finished third on the team with a career-best 80 tackles in 2011.

A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media, Robinson started 13 of 14 games at free safety in 2011, tied for the team lead in interceptions (4) and finished third on the team with a career-best 80 tackles (48 solos, 32 assists). His four interceptions ranked second in the Big Ten and tied for No. 22 in the NCAA FBS. He finished tied for third on the team in passes defended (6) and seventh in production points (136).

The 5-10, 192-pound Robinson registered six tackles against No. 18 Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl. He produced a season-high 12 tackles against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Robinson made eight stops in MSU's 31-17 victory at Northwestern. He was selected Spartan Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-best two interceptions, a pass break-up and six tackles in MSU's come-from-behind win over Minnesota. His first pick against the Gophers came early in the fourth quarter and set up a Spartan field goal, and his second interception came at the MSU 23-yard line with 10 seconds left in the game to ice a 31-24 victory. Robinson made eight stops, including one for a 7-yard loss, at No. 13 Nebraska. He played an excellent all-around game against No. 4 Wisconsin, recording eight tackles, including one for a 1-yard loss, and an interception. Robinson contributed six stops and a pass break-up in MSU's fourth-straight win over Michigan. He tallied five tackles against Central Michigan and recorded his first interception of the season, returning it 34 yards to set up a second-quarter touchdown.

A four-year letterman, Robinson started 32 of 46 career games. His career totals included 229 tackles, nine interceptions and 12 pass break-ups. His nine interceptions rank tied for 12th in the MSU record book.

"Trenton is a great player and more importantly, a great person," Cousins said. "He came in as a true freshman and played right away. He was thrown into the fire in 2008 and ended up as a team captain in 2011. Trenton did a great job as a vocal leader for our team. In addition, he became our inspirational leader.

"Trenton is a very active safety, making tackles, interceptions and pass break-ups all over the field. He's also very physical for a safety, yet he had the athletic ability to cover. That's a rare combination: the ability to step into the box and hit backs or strike players at the line of scrimmage and then cover receivers deep down the field. That's a unique quality that Trenton provides, and hopefully, he'll be able to display and showcase those talents at the Senior Bowl and throughout the draft process.

"To place three guys in this year's Senior Bowl is a testament to our entire football program. It really is pretty special."

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