Michigan State defeated Stanford 24-20 in a grueling, grinding, defense-heavy Rose Bowl Wednesday night in Pasadena. The Spartans (13-1) take home their first Rose Bowl victory since 1988 and the Big Ten's first win in the league's top game since 2010. Stanford (11-3) suffers its first bowl loss since the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.
The Michigan State defense responded after a rough first quarter in which it gave up 146 yards, surrendering only 23 yards and one first down in the second quarter. That didn't stop Stanford from scoring, though, as Kevin Anderson returned this truly wretched Connor Cook interception for a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining to give them a 17-7 lead.
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The Spartans responded quickly, as Cook shook off his mistake to guide the team down the field and threw a touchdown pass to Trevon Pendleton to make it 17-14 at the break.
On the second play of the second half, Cook connected with Bennie Fowler for 60 yards. The completion set up a game-tying field goal by Michael Geiger. MSU's next two series moved into Stanford territory, but ended without points. A Jeremy Langford fumble ended the second series inside the Stanford 10 yard line, ending Michigan State's best chance at taking its first lead.
On its next series, Michigan State's offense finally delivered. The Spartans took over at the Stanford 27 after a 19-yard punt return by Macgarrett Kings. On 3rd and 8 from the Stanford 25, Cook hit Tony Lippett on a 25-yard score. Geiger's extra point made it 24-17 in favor of Sparty.
The teams exchanged punts before a Michael Rector reverse and Michigan State penalty moved the Cardinal into Michigan State territory. A sack of Hogan left the Cardinal in third-and-long, and a swing pass to Barry Sanders left the Cardinal with fourth-and-5. Stanford sent on the field goal unit, and after a bad hold led to an impromptu fake and eventual penalty for ineligible man downfield, Jordan Williamson kicked a 39-yard field goal. Michigan State led 24-20 with 4:15 left to play.
The Spartans did nothing with their next offensive series and were forced to punt with 3:19 to play. Two plays left Stanford with third-and-1, but the Spartan defense stiffened, stopping consecutive Stanford runs and cementing the victory.
Box Score Hero:
Honors go to Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. With Stanford's defense shutting down the MSU running game -- the Spartans finished with just 86 non-sack rushing yards -- Cook was Sparty's sole source of offense. He finished 22-for-36 for a career-high 332 yards and two touchdowns.
Michigan State and Stanford came into this game ranked fourth and fifth in the BCS standings, respectively. The win could move Michigan State into the top 3 in the final standings and, should Alabama lose in the Sugar Bowl, could even get the Spartans into the top 2.
But Did They Cover?
Stanford was a seven point favorite at kickoff, and Michigan State clearly beat that spread.
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