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Rose Bowl champions? Sparty yes! Michigan State holds off Stanford, 24-20

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill AP

In a game full of defensive talent, it was only fitting that the deciding play in the Rose Bowl turned out to be a 4th and 1 in the final minutes of the game. The Spartans came up with the big stop as No. 5 Stanford (11-3, 7-2 Pac 12) was down four points with the game on the line. With defenders leaping over a pile at the Stanford 34-yard line, No. 4 Michigan State  (13-1, 8-0 Big Ten) stuffed fullback Ryan Hewitt for no gain, allowing the Spartans offense to run out the clock for the fourth Rose Bowl championship in program history. Michigan State held on for a 24-20 win in Pasadena.

The game was everything it was expected to be, with defenses coming up with big plays, but in this one the Michigan State offense took control of the game. Michigan State rolled up 400 yards of offense and went on a 17-0 run to come from behind and carry all of the momentum in the second half. Michigan State dug an early 10-0 hole, but Connor Cook never gave in and passed for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Stanford’s defense. Cook’s fourth quarter pass to Tony Lippett from 25 yards proved to be the game winner. At the time it broke a 17-17 tie, so the game was placed in the hands of the Spartans defense, a comfortable feeling for Michigan State for sure.

Stanford looked to catch Michigan State off guard when a field goal attempt seemed to fall apart and the Cardinal completed a roll out pass for a first down, but the officials threw a flag for an illegal formation with an ineligible receiver down field amid the confusion on the play. Rather than seizing momentum and having a chance to tie things up, Stanford settled for a 39-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson to cut Michigan State’s lead to 24-20.

The Cardinal then forced the Spartans to go three-and-out with just over three minutes to play. With one last chance, the Cardinal were stopped on a fourth down with one yard to go to keep the game alive. With no timeouts, there was nothing Stanford could do but watch as Michigan State allowed the seconds to tick all the way down to triple zeros.

The win for Michigan State is just the second by a Big Ten team since 2000. Ohio State defeated Oregon in the 2010 game. The Big Ten may have suffered a 1-2 mark earlier in the day against SEC opponents, but the conference has a chance to end the bowl season on a high note if Ohio State can take down Clemson in the Orange Bowl. A pair of BCS bowl victories would help to overshadow a losing bowl season regardless of what happens. Michigan State has now also proven to be worthy of playing on the big stage, but will they be able to keep this momentum going in 2014 as the College Football Playoff era is christened?

Michigan State will enter the 2014 season as the outright defending Big Ten champions for the first time since 1988. They will do so in a new division as well. With the additions of Maryland and Rutgers next year the Big Ten is re-organizing the division line-up. Michigan State will be in the Big Ten’s East division, along with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. The Spartans will geta  rematch with the Buckeyes on November 8, 2014 and also travel to Oregon in mid-September. Michigan State will also renew their end-of-the-year series with Penn State. Like Stanford, Michigan State will have three offensive linemen moving on but the significant players on the offense will be in tact at the skill positions. The defense will have six senior starters to replace but the Spartans should continue being tough on defense. The good news is Mark Dantonio and his staff will be getting a nice pay upgrade, so the Spartans will have some continuity working for them.

Stanford will have some changes to work through when the Cardinal move in to 2014. The offensive line will have at least three starters to replace in addition to running back Tyler Gaffney and fullback Ryan Hewitt. The defense will also be looking for new leadership after losing a good handful of players to graduation, including linebacker Shayne Skov. The backbone of Stanford’s success the last few years has been a punishing ground game and a stiff defense (yeah, Andrew Luck was a nice asset as well), so look for David Shaw to continue with that typical formula as the Pac 12 North continues to catch up. The Pac 12 North may still be Stanford’s or Oregon’s to lose in 2014, but Washington adding Chris Petersen as a head coach should lead to the Huskies improving as well. The Cardinal will get USC at home next season but will take to the road to play Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington in addition to a non-conference match-up in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame.

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35 Responses to “Rose Bowl champions? Sparty yes! Michigan State holds off Stanford, 24-20”
  1. derekgorgonstar says: Jan 1, 2014 8:42 PM

    Congrats, Sparty! Good luck in your next Rose Bowl in 2039!

  2. elwaysmilehighdenver says: Jan 1, 2014 8:50 PM

    E Lansing will catch fire tonight. I can already smell those couch fires. Congrats Sparty on a great season.

  3. sportfan2 says: Jan 1, 2014 9:04 PM

    Nice win for Big 10.

  4. cometkazie says: Jan 1, 2014 9:14 PM

    It’s fun to watch the Spartans.

    Get a lead and let the defense have its way.

  5. ahugusf says: Jan 1, 2014 9:20 PM

    Must i admit I was wrong on this one. Spartans definitely wanted it more

  6. realfootballfan says: Jan 1, 2014 9:29 PM

    With all the hand wringing over Ohio State and their failed attempt to play in the BCS championship game, I think Michigan State has a legit beef to have be considered the 2nd best team in the country after whoever loses next week drops in the polls. If the playoff was this year, they would have been my 4th with FSU, Alabama, and Auburn.

  7. spartyon2014 says: Jan 1, 2014 9:43 PM

    Ccongrats Spartans! I would have graciously congratulated Standord had they won, not belittled them. Classy Stanford Fans! The classiest team won!

  8. polegojim says: Jan 1, 2014 10:09 PM

    Great job Sparty… great D effort

    Only reason it was close was Cooks INT…

    But Sparty recovered…

    Go B1G!

  9. ndfanatic31 says: Jan 1, 2014 10:14 PM

    My favorite bowl game thus far (other than the pinstripe of course). MSU plays the game the right way. As an ND fan, I have great respect for their coaching staff (d’antonio was my first choice for hc) and still can’t believe we beat them this year. Shows how unpredictable NCAA football seasons can be.

  10. ttalarico says: Jan 1, 2014 10:50 PM

    From another ND fan, congrats to MSU! Next year’s game will another good one I’m sure.

  11. soundsofsuccess7 says: Jan 1, 2014 10:58 PM

    David Shaw blew this game. Stanford’s arrogance in their belief in their own run game bit them in the butt- maybe if they wouldn’t have predictably ran it up the gut on 3rd and 4th down on their last drive they might’ve had some offensive success.

  12. cfballfan1 says: Jan 1, 2014 11:17 PM

    Congrats to Spartan Nation! After last seasons near – miss frustrations this was an Epic win. Maybe we’ll get a shred of respect from the sports media going forward. Now it’s Izzos turn to bring home the hardware.

  13. irishdodger says: Jan 1, 2014 11:18 PM

    Nice hard fought win by Sparty. Glad I was wrong in my prediction.

  14. gfj7000 says: Jan 1, 2014 11:26 PM

    Well, as many of us have commented, after the final BCS rankings were released, that Stanford was OVERRATED @ #5. Even though they had a good performance today against a highly competitive MSU team (great job Stanford), the #5 ranking (over 3 other teams that had only lost (1) game) – (should have been #8 or #9) that they as a (2) loss team (along with (6) others ranked #9 through #14. Kevin Hogan’s lack-luster QB performance (his stats are at the bottom of the PAC-12), caused the difference. Stanford has averaged in the LOW 20s (points for) for most of the season – they scored 30+ points ONLY against their cupcake teams (offense-pts. scored – 38th ranked nationally). Well this ALL DEFENSE team showed up again with only 20 points. Next year for his recruiting search (since least 6 or more defensive personnel graduating), DAVID SHAW should ALSO RECRUIT a more competent QB that can create POINTS!

  15. terrorhawk2 says: Jan 2, 2014 12:00 AM


    MSU did what they did in all their big games, sputtered in the first half, made adjustments, dominated in 2nd half. Still figuring out offense vs ND. That’s college football.

    Their schedule was so weak, I was afraid for post season, but they really proved themselves. SO PROUD OF THE SPARTANS DAWGS!!!!!

  16. matrychapcox says: Jan 2, 2014 5:07 AM

    Author is obvious blue wall member. Using the opposite of a chUMp putdown phrase in the headline. Have fun with Hoke for four more years!

  17. janessa31888 says: Jan 2, 2014 8:07 AM

    As a Buckeye fan, I can only wish we had a good defense like the Spartans. Congrats, Michigan State, you earned that. Now I will be waiting in dread of what Clemson will do to the hapless Buckeyes. Tajh Boyd is probably going to wreak havoc upon us.

  18. jjsooner says: Jan 2, 2014 10:26 AM

    Mike Bloomgren should take a 20% pay cut for next year. Hell I thought Kevin Wilson was calling plays!! His own arrogance about his run game lost this game. You cannot run into the strength of a good team and hope to come out well. MSU was deserving of this win, but Stanford gift wrapped this game. MSU was daring Stanford to pass. I didn’t see one screen, one slant nadda nothing. MSU’s linebackers were running at the line of scrimmage on nearly every snap!! Horrible coaching performance by the O/C.

  19. dkhhuey says: Jan 2, 2014 11:00 AM

    That was a great game to watch and both teams played their @ssess off. Congrats to Sparty on a fantastic season and a great Rose Bowl victory. Coach D is a class act and wish he was still our DC!

  20. dhardy8207 says: Jan 2, 2014 11:24 AM

    Lee Corso called it on college game day yesterday and I was skeptical. However, watching the game it became apparent that Stanford would have problems moving the ball…

    Congrats to Michigan State on a really good game…

  21. billschmidt2012 says: Jan 2, 2014 11:38 AM

    I was absolutely disgusted that Stanford kept running the ball on first and second downs, and then forced to run a pass play on third down with long yardage needed for a first down. Over and over again they did the same thing. After the first quarter it was like they lost the ability to throw the ball. It was so obvious that the MS defenders were jumping up to the line on every first and second down, and then hanging back for a pass play on third down. There was no mixing up the plays, no big passes down field on first or second down, nothing to keep MS on their toes.
    Who ever was calling the plays for Stanford should be fired. That was pathetic play calling.

  22. monsterright says: Jan 2, 2014 11:42 AM

    My favorite game of the bowl season so far. Two class programs with great kids, fans and coaches.

  23. jjsooner says: Jan 2, 2014 12:15 PM

    billschmidt2012 I completely agree. The ONLY way to get the LB’s to back off is use their aggressiveness against them, but Stanford played right into their hands. A couple of slants or screens, early, would have made a huge difference. Terrible play calling IMO.

  24. ttalarico says: Jan 2, 2014 1:18 PM


    I think it’s the same coach calling the plays when they won all their other games!!

  25. billschmidt2012 says: Jan 2, 2014 2:08 PM

    ttalarico- Well that really confusses me then. They ran great plays all year, obviously, to win so many games. they just didn’t mix anything up after the first quarter. I would like to hear an explanation for the play calling. Maybe the coaches were seeing something with the defense that I wasn’t on TV (and on the many replays of those bad plays.). Plus, the players have to execute the plays you are calling, and that may not have been happening. So after a while, you call plays they can execute.

  26. superfbfan says: Jan 2, 2014 2:08 PM

    Congrats to Mich St!! Very well coached team…wish there was a playoff this year…they very well may be the best team in the Nation…Defense is NOT dead after all!!

    Did anyone else hear Brent Musburger rambling on about the ‘resurgence’ of the Big10?? I mean the Big10 is 2-4 in the bowl games…just thought it was really ridiculous to hear that at the end of the game….and they wonder why the SEC fan base rubs it in peoples (Big10) faces when they win.

  27. cometkazie says: Jan 2, 2014 2:21 PM

    What a refreshing bunch of comments! Very little negativity.

    Great job fellow college football fans. I wish it was contagious.

    I watched the second half and it was a really good game. Two excellent programs.

  28. ttalarico says: Jan 2, 2014 2:24 PM


    I think you’re right, the players weren’t executing. However, I think it had the most to do with MSU’s defense being better than they thought. And they may have gone to the same plays too many times but that’s what brought them there and what they do best.

    Being a ND fan and traveling to Stanford for this year’s game, I can attest that Stanford does run very well. MSU just had their number yesterday.

  29. superfbfan says: Jan 2, 2014 2:48 PM

    Did anyone else hear Stanford call ’61 fullback dive’ in the huddle just before the timeout on the last 4th down?? I thought Stanford would change the play after the timeout but they didn’t and Mich St stuffed the play like they knew it was coming…if any mich st coach, in the booth, had the volume up they would have heard they play called…I heard it and was like ‘fullback dive to the left’ ESPN really needs to be careful of where they have the over-field cameras at times….

  30. ttalarico says: Jan 2, 2014 4:35 PM


    No, I didn’t hear it. I would think ESPN would be restricted as to the sound they can receive and broadcast.

  31. superfbfan says: Jan 2, 2014 4:51 PM

    @ttalarico would think so! But there it was clear as day…still a great game regardless.

  32. thermanmerman99 says: Jan 2, 2014 6:30 PM

    just an observation, if that stanford guy wouldve caught that pass thrown right at his hands when they were up 10-0, that game is over. that guy is the goat of the game by far, whatever his name is.

  33. thermanmerman99 says: Jan 2, 2014 6:32 PM

    and another point. it really is beyond annoying hearing big 10 cheerleader herbstreit call big 10 games. anytime michigan state did anything positive, he was blowing his load in the booth. that guy needs to be banished to big east games for life

  34. amosalanzostagg says: Jan 2, 2014 7:10 PM

    Congratulations to Michigan State, you earned it.


  35. lks311 says: Jan 2, 2014 7:25 PM

    thermanmerman99 says:
    Jan 2, 2014 6:30 PM
    just an observation, if that stanford guy wouldve caught that pass thrown right at his hands when they were up 10-0, that game is over. that guy is the goat of the game by far, whatever his name is.
    Blah, blah, blah…

    If Connor Cook doesn’t throw that pick six the game is over, if Jeremy Langford doesn’t fumble on the seven…the game is over… IF MAX BULLOUGH PLAYS…the game is over…

    If, If, IF…best team won. Let’s move on.

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