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Brian Hoyer

Brian Hoyer

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EAST LANSING - It looks like Michigan State will be OK at quarterback.There was nothing close to resolution Saturday in the race between Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol to replace Brian Hoyer, but the talent of both sophomores came through in clear resolution."This is what we see every day," junior tight end Charlie Gantt said.

"Both of them going at it.

All day, every day."Nichol led the White team to a wild, 38-37 overtime victory over Cousins and the Green team in front of an estimated 26,000 fans at Spartan Stadium - with some folks scared away by a violent thunderstorm that delayed the game by 15 minutes.The ones who stayed were treated to a boatload of aerial fun.

Cousins threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.

Nichol threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions."We're obviously very pleased with the quarterback situation," MSU coach Mark Dantonio said.

"I thought they both responded when down, both showed good leadership, both made plays."Nichol got White off to a 17-0 jump.

Cousins led Green to 21 straight points.And they both threw touchdown passes in the final minute - a 39-yard laser from Nichol through two defenders to Myles White with 50 seconds left to give his team a 38-31 lead, then a clutch 7-yard strike from Cousins to Gantt on the final play of regulation to force overtime.Nichol completed a 2-yard toss to David Duran for the lead in overtime, then Cousins hit Josh Rouse on fourth down from the 1-yard-line.

With worries that another storm was coming, the Green team opted to go for a two-point conversion.Cousins rolled right with defensive end Trevor Anderson in his face.

He had to throw the ball into a crowd as he took a shot from Anderson, and Danny Fortener batted it down in the end zone.Cousins stayed down for a few seconds - emotional, not physical pain, he said - and although the final result means Green has to eat franks and beans while White dines on steak, it means nothing to a quarterback battle that figures to stretch into the 2009 season."It's great for our football team," Nichol, who completed 20 of 28 passes, said of the close competition."That's what has to happen to get to a Big Ten championship, no doubt.

We need that competition at every level."Kirk has pushed me beyond any level I thought I could play, and I hope I'm doing the same for thing."He is, said Cousins, who was 29 of 43 with several drops from his receivers."It pushes both of us," Cousins said.

"We can't relax at any moment."The quarterbacks were off limits to would-be tacklers, so they weren't allowed to run for much yardage.

Some large chunks would have been there, especially for Nichol.After missing on some early passes, he settled down and made big play after big play.

Cousins, meanwhile, was surgical with his quick release and accuracy.Although both went against watered-down secondaries, with the team split in two and missing four defensive backs, they also operated behind watered-down lines.They showed undeniable ability, along with vocal leadership.

And they both made several plays under pressure."I don't think you can ask for a more realistic thing in the spring time than we saw today," said Dantonio, who reiterated that this competition isn't likely to be resolved before the 2009 season starts Sept.

5 against Montana State."I think what we need to do throughout their sophomore year," Dantonio said, "is allow them opportunities."
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