Grinz on Green Blog
Nov. 26, 2011
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
EVANSTON, Ill. - The momentum for next Saturday's Big Ten Championship Game began to build for Michigan State late in the first half against Northwestern.
The Wildcats had tied the score with a field goal early in the second quarter and were threatening to convert an interception off Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins into a 10-3 lead.
Spartans defensive end Denzel Drone recovered at the 3-yard line, and Cousins proceeded to engineer an eight-play, 97-yard drive that ended on Le'Veon Bell's 7-yard touchdown run with 1:40 remaining in the half.
Sixty-six seconds later, Keshawn Martin added to the lead with a 57-yard return of a rugby punt he fielded on one hop before streaking up the right sideline for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead.
The Wildcats countered early in the third quarter with a 69-yard pass play that set up a 2-yard touchdown pass.
But Cousins and senior wideout B.J. Cunningham put the game out of reach by hooking up for a 33-yard touchdown pass on MSU's ensuing possession, and a 29-yarder, which capped a 93-yard drive, with 5:17 remaining in the game.
The 61st touchdown pass of Cousins' career moved him to a tie for first place on MSU's all-time scoring-throw list with Jeff Smoker and once again illuminated the bond he has developed with Cunningham.
As Cousins stepped up in the pocket, he saw Cunningham angling to the middle of the end zone and while moving forward threw a strike that Cunningham caught on a dead run.
The record-setting 62nd touchdown toss came with some drama as Cunningham juggled the ball before securing it while crossing the goal line.
"They brought a blitz and Kirk threw to me `hot,'" Cunningham said. "I looked back at the last minute, bobbled it a little bit and finally caught it."
It was fitting that Cunningham was on the receiving end of Cousins' landmark touchdown passes because the two broke in together as unheralded freshmen and forged an almost immediate connection.
"B.J. is a special player," Cousins said. "I remember the first time I ever threw a pass to him. We're were doing seven-on-seven workouts during the summer. He ran a 5-yard out, and I threw it way too low at his shoelaces, and he went down and snagged it with two hands."
Cousins recalled knowing that Cunningham wasn't a big-time recruit and that Mark Dell, who graduated last year, was getting all the attention.
"Then we were on the scout team together all fall in 2007, and they could have pulled his redshirt because he was playing so well," Cousins said. "He's a special talent and I was lucky that I was able to come in with him and we were able to spend all this time developing chemistry together.
"Now we're seniors and it's showing itself on the field on Saturdays."
With 214 yards on 14-of-20 passing, Cousins also recorded the 24th 200-yard game of his career to break a first-place tie with Smoker on the MSU all-time list.
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