It has taken five years for a Big Ten team to reclaim the Rose Bowl, as Michigan State came to Pasadena and simply outplayed Stanford with a slight twist in the story: Instead of a dominant running game, they won thanks to Connor Cook putting on a passing clinic.
The Spartans won 24-20 in their first Rose Bowl since 1987, and it was a Big Ten team victory for the first time since the 2010 game, when Ohio State beat Oregon.
Connor Cook, the Sophomore who didn’t have a single game of over 300 passing yards during the regular season, suddenly broke out in the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl, twice going for over 300. He completed 22-of-36 passes for 332 yards, two touchdowns and an interceptions. Michigan State only ran for 65 yards on 35 carries, but their defense held Stanford to 305 total yards, limiting Kevin Hogan to 143 passing yards, 0 passing touchdowns and an interception.
Stanford took the early lead through Tyler Gaffney and Kevin Anderson returning an interception 40 yards for the touchdown, making it 17-7 in the second quatter. However, a quick two-minute drive from the Spartans resutled in Cook finding Trevon Pendleton for the touchdown with 28 seconds left in the half, possibly the most important score of the game.
Stanford couldn’t get much going for them in the second half, scoring only 3 points late in the fourth quarter. Michigan State took the lead early in the fourth as Cook found Tony Lippett for a 25-yard touchdown pass, and their defense held them in the lead till the very end.
It’s a special time for all Spartans, and we came here in force. I’m very happy for our football team, the resilience we showed all season long. When we got down, guys were always helping each other. We’re such a balanced team.
In his 7th season in East Lansing, Mark Dantonio finally got his rebuilding plan to take Michigan State as far as possible (almost). It is their thrid season in four years with 11 wins or more, but it finally got them to a BCS Bowl and maybe in a normal system, a chance at the national title. He is 64-29 since joining the Spartans, and it seems that at least for now, has taken over Michigan as the number one school in the state, and possibly joining or maybe even surpassing Ohio State for more than one season.
Stanford did go on one final drive to save the day, but everyone saw a run coming on 4th-and-1 with the ball on Stanford’s 34, 1:34 left in the game. Ryan Hewitt got the ball in his hands, but Kyler Elsworth leaped over the pile to deliver the final tackle of the game, and end’s Stanford’s chances to repeat as Rose Bowl champions.
When I saw their offensive linemen’s stance, I knew the way to make a play was to go over the top. I was hoping they would run a play like they did on their fourth down. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime play. We proved we could play on the big stage on the national level.