After having successful runs in 2011, there were high expectations for both the Michigan State Spartans and the TCU Horned Frogs. Roster turnover and internal team issues were just two of the reasons they both fell short of their preseason goals. But the teams combined to put on a show in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, as Michigan State overcame a 13-point deficit in the second half to beat TCU, 17-16, in Tempe, Ariz.
Michigan State struggled to move the ball all game, racking up an anemic 227 total yards. So when TCU kicker Jaden Oberkrom drilled a 53-yard field goal to give the Horned Frogs a 16-14 lead with under three minutes to go, hopes looked dim for the Spartans. But senior MSU kicker Dan Conroy answered with a 47-yarder of his own with just over a minute to play, and the Spartans' defense snuffed out TCU's desperation drive to ice the victory for Michigan State.
As expected, it was a defensive battle. In the school's first year in the Big 12, TCU (7-5) had the top defensive unit. In the first half, TCU kept Michigan State (6-6) from scoring by holding the Spartans to only three first downs and 72 total yards of offense.
MSU, having the top defense in the Big 10, allowed 13 points. In the first quarter, TCU's Matthew Tucker rushed for a four yard touchdown. The Horned Frogs would be kept out of the end zone the rest of the first half, but Oberkrom hit two field goals in the second quarter to extend TCU's lead to 13-0 at halftime.
Sparty found the end zone first in the second half. On a 14-play, 90-yard drive, MSU quarterback Connor Cook handed the ball off to Aaron Burbridge. The wide receiver ran the ball 15 yards down the middle of the field for a touchdown, shaving the Horned Frogs' advantage to just six points.
In the fourth, Michigan State got lucky. After being unable to make anything happen on a five-play drive, MSU chose to punt. The kick was a line drive directly to TCU's Skye Dawson, who muffed the punt and gave the Spartans the ball back just four yards from the Horned Frogs' end zone. It took two plays for Sparty to score. Le'Veon Bell rushed for four yards and the TD. Conroy hit the point-after, giving Michigan State its first lead in the game, 14-13, and setting up the frantic final sequence.