The Rose Bowl. The Big One. The Grand Daddy of them all. And the 100th edition live up to its hype as #4 Michigan State defeated #5 Stanford 24-20 in a game that featured two of the nation's best defenses!
Stanford jumped out to an early 7-0 lead with a touchdown (TD) on the game's opening drive. Quarterback (QB) Kevin Hogan connected with Wide Receiver (WR) Michael Rector for a 45 yard gain. That helped set Running Back (RB) Tyler Gaffney who capped off the scoring drive with a 16 yard run. Michigan State's first possession ended when Stanford Linebacker Trent Murphy (who led the nation in sacks during the regular season) tackled Quarterback Connor Cook for a loss of two, forcing the Spartans to punt.
Later in the 1st Quarter, Gaffney had a 47 yard run that would set up Stanford's next scoring drive as Jordan Williamson would hit a Field Goal from 34 yards out to give the Cardinal a 10-0 lead at the end of the 1st.
After a big 3rd down conversion to officially close the 1st Quarter and start the 2nd, Michigan State would go on a 13 play 75 yard drive covering 5:55 on the clock finishing it off with a 2 yard TD run by RB Jeremy Langford and cut the lead to 10-7. One play prior to the score, a very questionable Pass Interference (PI) call was made on Stanford Cornerback (CB) Wayne Lyons as the ball looked to be uncatchable, regardless of any contact.
With just over two minutes remaining in the 1st half, with the ball on their own 41, Michigan State QB Connor Cook made a huge mental mistake when he tried to throw the ball away in a soft manner that ended up being intercepted for a pick 6 by Kevin Anderson. Anderson who had an interception go in and out of his hands earlier in the game, made up for it by giving his team a 17-7 lead. Cook however, maintained his poise and led Michigan State down field with two key pass plays that went to Tony Lippett and Bennie Fowler for 24 and 37 yards respectively. Three plays later, Cook found Trevon Pendleton in the endzone to cut Stanford's lead to 17-14. Stanford would take a knee following the ensuing kickoff and head into the half with a 3 point lead.
Michigan State opened up the 2nd half quickly thanks to a 60 yard reception by Fowler. The Cardinal however were able to prevent the Spartans from finding the end zone, but Michigan State still came away with points with a FG to tie the game up at 17-17.
Late in the 3rd, Michigan State with the ball, were driving deep in Stanford territory with that ball on the Cardinal 12. Jeremy Langforrd would lead the drive with 45 yards of offense (34 Rushing, 11 Receiving). On 1st & 10 Langford fumbled and Stanford dodged a bullet. The Michigan State defense would come up big again forcing a 3 and out as time eventually expired in the 3rd Quarter after the Spartans defensive hold. Stanford opened up the 4th Quarter with a punt.
With Stanford punting out of there own endzone, Michigan State would have the opportunity with starting its next possession with great field position. Macgarrett Kings caught the ball at the Stanford 46 and returned it 19 yards at the Cardinal 27. The Spartans cashed in on the great field position three play later when Connor Cook hooked up with Tony Lippett over the middle and into the end zone for a 25 yard TD play and gave Michigan State its first lead of the day, 24-17.
After being held to another 3 and out by the Michigan State Defense, The Cardinal following position was deep in the Spartans zone with the ball at their 22 yard line with a 1st & 10. On 2nd & 8 a key big play came from Michigan State's Denzel Drone when he got into the back field and sacked Hogan for an 8 yard loss. The sack perhaps ended up costing Stanford a TD as they eventually settled for a FG that cut the Spartans lead to 24-20.
Stanford's Defense would come up with a huge 3 and out of its own and would get the ball back for one last chance to win the game! After three plays, Stanford faced a 4th & 1 from their own 34. Ryan Hewitt took the handoff when walk-on Linebacker Kyler Elsworth jumped over the line, diving across in midair and eventually meeting Hewitt in the backfield. The tackle forced a turnover on downs and Michigan State was able to run out the clock and come away with the upset with timely plays from the offense and a great out by its defense. Michigan State, finishes the season 13-1 along with their Big Ten Title. Stanford, the Pac 12 Champions, dropped to 11-3.
Notes: With its win, Michigan State is now 4-1 all time in the Rose Bowl
Michigan State improve to 4-2 all time vs Stanford
Stanford was making its second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance (having beaten Wisconsin last year)
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