Sunday September 14th, 2014

This hardly helps the Big Ten's ever-dwindling College Football Playoff hopes, but at least Michigan State fans had a reason to celebrate Sunday. Three former Spartans quarterbacks (Brian Hoyer, Drew Stanton and Kirk Cousins) led their NFL teams to victory in Week 2, a perfect 3-0 mark.

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Both Stanton and Cousins were pressed into duty by injury -- Stanton got the starting nod for Arizona with Carson Palmer sidelined by a sore shoulder, while Cousins came on in relief of Robert Griffin III, who appeared to suffer a serious ankle injury early in Washington's home opener against the Jaguars.

Cousins wasted no time picking up the Redskins after a distraught Griffin tumbled to the turf. His first pass attempt went for a 20-yard touchdown to fullback Darrell Young, and Cousins later hit Niles Paul for another score as part of a 250-yard passing day. With tons of help from Washington's defense, Cousins picked up his first win since 2012, a 41-10 rout.


Stanton started hot, too, throwing for 44 yards on the opening possession of Arizona's game against the Giants. His third and final completion of that drive was to Larry Fitzgerald, down to the Giants' 1-yard line. Jonathan Dwyer punched it in from there for six.

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The Cardinals found themselves trailing 14-13 in the fourth quarter before a dropped Victor Cruz pass set the stage for Ted Ginn Jr.'s game-changing 71-yard punt return touchdown to give Arizona the lead for good.

The final line for Stanton was far from electrifying -- 14-of-29, 167 yards, one touchdown -- but he committed no turnovers on a day that the bumbling Giants had four. When a backup quarterback is pressed into a start on the road, it's hard to ask for more.

But even though Cousins and Stanton did the Spartans proud when called into action, it was Hoyer who stole the show late in Sunday's early block of games. His Cleveland team trailed 24-23 when a New Orleans punt pinned the Browns at their own 4-yard line with just 2:46 left on the clock.

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Hoyer moved the Browns down the field rather methodically, given the limited time remaining. The key play of the entire game came when Hoyer drilled a pass to tight end Gary Barnidge for 10 yards on a 4th-and-6 to extend the drive. On an earlier touchdown drive, Hoyer and Barnidge had connected on a 13-yard completion when faced with 3rd-and-13. 

The Browns still were on the fringe of field-goal range when Hoyer hit a wide-open Andrew Hawkins, who took the ball down to the New Orleans' 11-yard line. Following a timeout, Billy Cundiff drilled a 29-yard field goal to clinch a stunning upset and hand Hoyer a bit of a statement win.

Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine gave Browns fans a brief glimpse of rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel during the third quarter -- Manziel handed off twice and threw an incompletion (on a drop). 


Hoyer responded by emphatically cementing himself as the Cleveland starter. And in turn, the Browns served notice for the second time in two weeks that they will be far from a pushover this season.

All in all, not a bad showing for Michigan State's football program on a weekend in which the Spartans did not even take the field. And potential extra credit remains for the Spartans: Eagles starter Nick Foles, who visits Indianapolis on Monday night, briefly played in East Lansing before transferring to Arizona.

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