Michigan State’s football program has generated a lot of NFL caliber players over the years, and seven players from MSU were able to play in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs.
Oakland vs. Houston
The biggest headline in this game was former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. After Derek Carr and Matt McGloin went down with injuries, the Oakland Raiders had no choice but to play Cook in the opening round of the playoffs. Cook made history by being the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to make his first career start in the playoffs. Cook struggled mightily in the game, but his team didn’t help him much, dropping multiple passes throughout the game. Cook finished with the game with 161 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.
Cook wasn’t the only former MSU player in this game, as Joel Heath is a member of the Texans. Heath didn’t have much of an impact, but he was able to finish the game with two tackles. Heath finished the season with eight tackles and two sacks. After being undrafted, Heath has made the most of his opportunities and should continue to play more as his career goes along.
Max Bullough and Keith Mumphery also play for the Texans, but didn’t generate any stats in the game. Bullough was scratched for the game, but finished the season with 25 tackles. Mumphery didn’t catch any passes in the game, but had 10 catches for 69 yards on the season. Heath, Mumphery and Bullough will advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs and take on the New England Patriots.
Miami vs. Pittsburgh
Le’Veon Bell is the most notable Spartan in the NFL right now and he had a monster game against the Miami Dolphins. Bell rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, leading the Steelers past the Dolphins. He is arguably the best back in the league and should continue his dominance next game. Bell missed the first three games of the season due to a suspension, but still rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns. Bell also caught 75 passes for 616 yards and two touchdowns.
Miami struggled on both sides of the ball, but two former Spartans were able to make an impact. Former MSU receiver Tony Lippett plays cornerback for the Dolphins and he finished the game with four total tackles. Lippett broke out in his second year, finishing the season with 67 tackles, four interceptions and 10 pass deflections.
The Dolphins’ offense struggled to get anything going with backup quarterback Matt Moore, but former MSU tight end Dion Sims had a pretty good day, catching five passes for 34 yards. His day as highlighted by hauling in a 17-yard reception from Moore, which eventually led to a field goal. Sims had his best season as a pro, catching 26 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns.
Other key Spartans in the NFL
Kirk Cousins had his best season as a pro, throwing for 4,917 yards and 25 touchdowns, while completing 67 percent of his passes. Cousins is in line for a big pay day this offseason.
Jack Conklin had one of the best rookies seasons you can have in the NFL, being named first team All-Pro. Conklin started all 16 games for the Tennessee Titans this season, manning the right side of the Titans’ offensive line. Conklin’s future looks bright.
William Gholston played in 14 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, finishing the season with 49 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Gholston had his best season as a pro since being drafted by the Buccaneers in 2013. He dislocated his elbow late in the season, but according to reports will not need surgery.
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