Associated Press
Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins throws in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Nebraska, in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011.
I think there's a disconnect with the way the Christian faith is handled rather than how other faiths are handled. It would be interesting to see if Tim was of another faith, would he be mocked the same way?

EAST LANSING, Mich. — There were more than a few occasions in the days following the nightmare of the closing seconds in Indianapolis when Kirk Cousins looked deep into his faith for an explanation. He was more bewildered than depressed.

Losing is an accepted consequence of competition at the highest level, but a torturous outcome such as Michigan State's 42-39 loss against Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten championship game can shake anyone's confidence a little .

"I asked myself 'Why?' quite a bit," Cousins said. "Why did God let this happen? It didn't seem right. It didn't seem fair.

"Right now, His plan isn't very fun."

There are far greater injustices more deserving of religious introspection than the outcome of a football game.

But Cousins' openness and ease in discussing the importance of his faith in his daily life reflects the public role of religion in sports. It's a hot topic right now, thanks largely to Tim Tebow's recent NFL success.

Some people feel like something so private is getting thrown in their faces — the expression of faith has a proper time and place. But there's certainly nothing wrong with those who unapologetically espouse their beliefs.

If nothing else, the more vocal marriage of football and faith might encourage frank dialogue as to why religion unsettles some when it's expressed openly. And since when is honest and thoughtful debate and discussion a bad thing?

Cousins admits that the mocking of "Tebowing" bothered him.

"It seems to be acceptable to mock Tim and the way he represents his faith," Cousins said, "but it seems to not be acceptable to mock other faiths. I think there's a disconnect with the way the Christian faith is handled rather than how other faiths are handled. It would be interesting to see if Tim was of another faith, would he be mocked the same way? I doubt that he would be. Or if it had happened, it would be frowned upon very quickly.

"(The mocking) is a little more acceptable than what I would like to see. But at the end of the day, people can do what they want. The great thing about this country is that there's a freedom of religion."

Cousins hasn't met Tebow, but he said neither would apologize for his outspoken convictions.

In some ways, Tebow has broken a barrier that might make it easier for Cousins next year should he graduate to the next level. Some NFL scouts believe Cousins, a more traditional drop-back passer, will be one of the top five quarterbacks drafted in April. That could place him as high as the middle of the second round, depending on the number of underclassman quarterbacks who declare for the draft.

But talk of religion and the NFL aside, Cousins has one final college game left.

The Spartans can bounce back from the Wisconsin loss and erase another nasty memory — last year's embarrassing 49-7 bowl loss to Alabama.

"We were too content coming into that game," Cousins said. "We thought we had already accomplished something winning the Big Ten title. And they came into it discontented because they were defending national champions and they weren't playing in the bowl game they wanted. Well now we're the ones that are discontented, and we'll have to make that work to our advantage."