With all the turmoil going around the Michigan State football program lately I thought now would be the perfect time to reminisce on an era before the transfer portal.
Here I will do my best to take your mind off the current situation and remind you of arguably the greatest quarterback in Spartan history: Kirk Cousins
We all know Kirk went on to be a great success but his career started from humble beginnings. Kirk was a low three-star recruit from Holland, Michigan only getting Power Five offers from a Michigan State team debuting new coach Mark Dantonio and the lowly Colorado Buffalos. Kirk, of course, chose MSU and became a Spartan in the fall of 2007.
Cousins would be redshirted his first year on campus and would be Brian Hoyer’s primary backup in 2008. His first chance at starting would arrive in his redshirt sophomore season in 2009 but he had competition. Keith Nichol would transfer into the program after initially starting his college at Oklahoma. Kirk had an up-and-down season and was plagued with some crucial mistakes.
Notably in the Battle for the Megaphone when Cousins threw a game-sealing interception, securing Notre Dame’s win.
Kirk would get his first win of many as a starter against Michigan but was hurt for much of the fourth quarter. This led to Kirk even being benched the next week against Illinois. Overall though Kirk firmly placed himself as the starter despite the team’s mediocre 6-7 record. This would set the stage for the first great Mark Dantonio season in 2010.
The 2010 season started and there was no controversy in East Lansing, Cousins was the guy. This team was different and this quarterback was different and this was shown right away. Early in the season, the Spartans were given a chance to avenge the previous year’s loss to Notre Dame and they did so in style with a fake field goal in overtime. Kirk put them in the position and played a great game including a clutch fourth-quarter scoring drive.
This game put MSU in the top 25 and the Spartans would keep climbing thanks to the Cousins’ play as the Spartans would go on to beat the 11th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers. This set up a matchup with undefeated Michigan and Heisman candidate Dennard Robinson. Cousins would help cement his legacy by thoroughly outclassing Robinson en route to a blowout win in Ann Arbor.
The Spartans would continue climbing up the top 25 on the back of Cousins getting as high as fifth in the nation. This magical season would come to a screeching halt as the fifth-ranked Spartans were humiliated in Iowa City losing 37-6 to the Iowa Hawkeyes. This game was largely on Cousins who threw three crucial interceptions including a pick-six in the loss.
While an undefeated season was now out of the picture the Spartans could still win their first Big Ten championship since 1990, and that is exactly what they did. Ending the season with three straight wins and clinching a share of a Big Ten title with a win against Penn State in Happy Valley. The season ended on a disappointing note in a blowout loss to Alabama but was still at the time the most successful season MSU football had since 1966.
The hype for the 2011 season was palpable in East Lansing and Cousins was looking to deliver on this hype. There was an early setback for the Spartans as Notre Dame bounced back from the previous season’s loss. This had nothing to do with Cousins’s play as he threw for over 300 yards but still marked a disappointing start to the season.
Kirk and the 2011 Spartans took this loss personally and went on to win the next four games. This included Kirk’s third straight over Michigan. He ended his career 3-0 as a starter against the Wolverines. The following week did not get any easier as the Spartans played the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers on College GameDay. This would be the seminal game of Kirk’s career as he won the game on a Hail Mary touchdown pass that ended in the arms of Keith Nichol.
MSU won every remaining regular season game setting up a rematch with the Badgers in the inaugural Big Ten title game. The game was a back-and-forth battle with Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson going blow for blow. The game looked like it was going to be won by whoever got the ball last and with 1:37 left on the clock it looked like Kirk would get his chance with Wisconsin punting the ball. However, this chance was taken away when Isaiah Lewis ran into the Wisconsin Punter sealing the game, Don’t worry he made up for it.
Despite this disappointing ending, Kirk got a chance to end his career the right way, finally getting that bowl win that has alluded the program since 2001. Kirk Delivered with 300 yards in a comeback win.
At the end of this game, Kirk Cousins was MSU’s all-time leader in passing yards passing touchdowns, and wins as a quarterback. Truly a Spartan legend.