The easy to spot hero of the game was Dan Conroy with a 47 yard field goal with one minute left in the fourth quarter, winning the game for Michigan State. The real hero? Le’Veon Bell, who carried a dysfunctional offense all season long in the Big Ten and once again in the Bowl Game, to finish the season on a high note, and just above .500.
To say this season was a disappointment for the Spartans is an understatement. From being a shade away from a BCS bowl last season, the Spartans simply couldn’t get it going on offense all season, ranking 110th in the nation with an average of 20 points per game. Having an excellent defense and Le’Veon Bell, a workhorse of a running back, didn’t help to overcome mediocrity, until the very end.
Bell finished with 145 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown that was set up by a terrible fumble on the punt return for TCU. That gave Michigan State a 14-13 lead, their first in the game during the fourth quarter. TCU, another team better known for its defense than its ability to put up huge offensive numbers, got the lead back with a field goal. Michigan State had the last laugh, leaving an opening that Trevone Boykin couldn’t take advantage of in the final minute.
With so many close games and losing like we did during the season, to have one go our way was definitely sweet. Michigan State lost six games this season by a combined margin of 30 points. Except for their 3-20 early season defeat against Notre Dame, they were all by four points or less. That is what makes the 7-6 record so much more disappointing.
It was a roller coaster first year at the job for Andrew Maxwell, and it wasn’t much different in the game. He was benched twice for Connor Cook, and finished with 6-15 for 28 yards, nearly intercepted on three plays. Cook didn’t do much better, finishing with 4-11 and 47 yards, but did throw a touchdown.
The bottom line was Bell and defense. The Spartans’ defense allowed teams an average of 273 per game this season. They struggled in the first half vs TCU, giving up almost 200, but settled down and got a lot more dominant in the second, as TCU finished with only 288 for the game. Le’Veon Bell rushed for 100 yards or more for the eight time this season, something only Montee Ball of Wisconsin had more of this season. Bell finished his Junior season with 1793 yards and 12 touchdowns.
TCU ruined the perfect season Texas schools were having in the bowl games: Baylor, Rice, SMU, Texas and Texas Tech got them a 5-0 record to defend going into the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but on a rare occasion this season, Michigan State actually pulled through and turned it up a notch in the fourth quarter. TCU, also playing with a quarterback that wasn’t the original starter this season, Trevone Boykin taking over for Casey Pachall, just made too many mistakes when they meant the most.