Big Ten football: Spartans punch ticket to conference title game

By Andrew Seligman
ASSOCIATED PRESS  • 
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ANDREW NELLES | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard intercepts a pass intended for Northwestern’s Mike McHugh in the third quarter, one of three picks the Spartans had in the game.

EVANSTON, Ill. — Mark Dantonio and his players wore hats commemorating their Big Ten Legends Division championship. They hope bigger prizes are coming.

Connor Cook passed for a career-high 293 yards, Jeremy Langford ran for 150 and No. 13 Michigan State clinched a spot in the conference championship game with a 30-6 victory over Northwestern yesterday.

Cook threw two touchdown passes, Langford ran for two scores and the Spartans (10-1, 7-0) reached the conference championship game for the second time in three years.

“I’m happy to have the hat on and wear it for a couple of weeks, and then turn it in,” Dantonio said.

Langford ran 20 yards untouched for the game’s first touchdown in the second quarter.

He sealed the victory with a 37-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter after Kurtis Drummond intercepted a short pass by Trevor Siemian, sending Michigan State to its seventh consecutive victory and Northwestern (4-7, 0-7) to its seventh consecutive loss.

Cook completed 16 of 24 passes on a bone-chilling and windy day, including an 87-yard touchdown to Bennie Fowler on a one-handed grab in the second quarter. He also had a 15-yard scoring pass to Josiah Price in the third.

Drummond had two interceptions, and the Spartans closed in on 11 victories for the third time in four seasons. They also are seeking their first trip to the Rose Bowl in 26 years.

Before that, there’s a home game against Minnesota. Then, they head to Indianapolis for the conference championship game, against No. 4 Ohio State.

“Winning this game, knowing we locked up going to Indianapolis, is a great feeling,” said cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who also had an interception.

Safety Isaiah Lewis knocked Northwestern’s Kain Colter out of the game with a big hit as Colter tried to catch a pass early in the first quarter, resulting in a targeting penalty and an ejection. Dantonio said it was an unwarranted ejection.

“I saw a hit on the shoulder,” Dantonio said.

Colter stayed down for a few moments and walked off clutching his stomach or arm. He did not return, and his status for next week is questionable.

Things didn’t get much better for the Wildcats after that. They fell out of bowl contention after making one the previous five years, and they could go winless in Big Ten play if they don’t prevail at Illinois next week.

With Colter injured, Siemian carried the load at quarterback and completed 25 of 43 passes for 227 yards with two interceptions. The Wildcats managed just 80 yards rushing, and their free fall continued after a 4-0 start.

“It has definitely been a rough experience,” defensive end Tyler Scott said. “You never want to lose a game, but to lose seven in a row, it’s challenging.”

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