by | Oct 8, 2010 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

So I typed “Michigan State” and “quarterback” into a Google search the other day, and atop the list I got one story on Drew Stanton (who left MSU three years ago) and a bunch of stories on Denard Robinson, who plays in Ann Arbor.

If I were Kirk Cousins, the actual Michigan State quarterback, that would unnerve me.

But I’m not, and it won’t. Cousins, 22, is the quiet storm to the Denard Robinson hurricane. If Robinson is salsa, Cousins is ketchup. If Robinson is a comic book, Cousins is a business bio. There has been more ink on Robinson this season than will probably ever be spent on Cousins.

But don’t be fooled. As Cousins says, “My job is to lead this team to a victory over Michigan.” And it is not only possible that Cousins will be smiling come Saturday night, statistically, it’s almost likely.

Consider this: Only one team in the nation is allowing more than 300 yards passing a game. That team is Michigan. Which means Cousins, statistically, will be facing a much weaker pass defense Saturday than the Wisconsin one on which he rung up 269 yards and three touchdowns.

In fact, statistically speaking, Cousins is looking at the most porous opponent in the nation.

That should make up a little for the Google thing, shouldn’t it? Overcoming the odds at MSU

But almost no one is talking about Cousins, and everyone is talking about Robinson.

“He’s a tremendous talent,” Cousins said. “He’s a very exciting player who can take it the distance anytime. … But whether their quarterback is having a great year, an OK year, or a down year, it doesn’t change my job.”

Which is, to quote the cable guy: Get ‘er done. Find a way to win it – as the Spartans did last year, in overtime, in East Lansing. Do that, and no one will care about headlines.

Besides, in most football showdowns, someone plays the Kirk Cousins role. The quarterback who gets less publicity, less love, slightly lowered expectations. But only until kickoff. Then you get Drew Brees in the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning was the bigger name. But he didn’t get the trophy, did he?

Cousins, a junior, only wants the trophy. He’s used to the lowered expectations stuff. While Robinson was recruited by powers like Florida and Georgia, Cousins (who went to Holland Christian) was fielding interest from Northern Illinois and Western Michigan.

In East Lansing, he has played behind Brian Hoyer and alongside Keith Nichol. He fights the tag of occasional bad decision-making, and yes, there are interceptions he’d like to have back. He sometimes tries too hard. And unlike Robinson, he ties his shoelaces.

But come on. The guy was 20-for-29 against Wisconsin. He completed 71% of his passes last year against U-M. He was elected a team captain last year.

In other words, he has a lot going for him.

And he’s not alone. A great supporting cast on offense

Cousins also has strong running backs and proven receivers, two luxuries U-M is yet to give Robinson. True, you probably won’t see Cousins bolt through the line for 50 yards, but a steady diet of short completions could give him a big pad of numbers when the game is complete – including the most important numbers, the final score.

“It’s a game that really is a season in itself,” said Cousins, whose Spartans, like the Wolverines, are 5-0 and nationally ranked. “You have your conference play, your nonconference play, and the Michigan game. …

“Last year, we went in 1-3, but we didn’t care. It was just a matter of beating them.”

And last year they did it with an unheralded freshman running back, Larry Caper, who took a third-and-eight handoff and raced 23 yards for the overtime winner. Caper was hardly the most famous name on the field that day. So why not the less famous of the starting quarterbacks on Saturday? Hey, Warren Moon went undrafted. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick. Bart Starr was a 17th-rounder.

Headlines aren’t everything. But if Cousins keeps his head, makes smart decisions, and picks at the same defense U-M’s previous five opponents shredded, he could make a few headlines of his own.

And you can Google them.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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