For the first 10 minutes or so of the game, it looked like Michigan State had a chance against Baylor. Over the next 35 minutes, they looked like they never really stood much of a chance. The last 15 minutes? Sparty Hell Yes!
In an unbelievable turn of events, No. 8 Michigan State (11-2) overcame a 20-point deficit entering the fourth to stun No. 5 Baylor (11-2) 42-41 in the 79th annual Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic that was just that: a classic. What improbably was the game-winner came with just 11 ticks left on the clock to complete the stunning fourth-quarter turnaround.
Connor Cook was hit and miss all afternoon, completing 24-of-42 passes for 324 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He gutted it out, though, right until the dramatic end after entering the final 15 minutes on the wrong end of a 41-21 score.
The second of Cook’s picks was actually returned for a touchdown that would’ve given the Bears a 48-28 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining and seemingly sealed a blowout win for BU, but was instead called back because of a block in the back. That would prove to be the first significant turning point in the comeback as, six plays later, the Bears gave the ball back to the Spartans on downs, and MSU promptly drove down the field and scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 41-35 with 4:55 remaining.
A blocked field goal attempt and return to the MSU 45 with just over a minute remaining — after a lengthy Bear reception had originally given them the ball inside the five but was pushed back because of an offensive face mask penalty — gave Sparty one final shot. A Cook 28-yard completion got the Spartans to the 27-yard line and then, on fourth down, a 17-yard completion left the offense with a first and goal with 30 or so seconds remaining. Then, with :11 remaining, Cook hit Keith Mumphery on a 10-yard touchdown pass for what proved to be the game-winning score.
Baylor had one last slim chance, but a Bryce Petty interception officially sealed the stunning loss for the Bears, which was the beneficiary of its own huge fourth-quarter comeback against TCU earlier this season.
Petty, though, was a significant part of the reason the Bears were in the College Football Playoff discussion all season long, and was the majority reason for what was looking early on like a win today. Petty, a senior playing in his last game at the collegiate level, passed for a Cotton Bowl-record 557 yards and three touchdowns. It was the last of that trio of touchdowns, though, that was the play of the game from my perspective as it went to 390-pound Laquan McGowan. Again, a man who weighs 390 pounds — and that’s a listed weight that seems to err on the side of caution as his official bio calls him an “[e]normous fourth-year junior offensive lineman — scored on a touchdown reception.
That’s beautiful. I wept.
All told, the Bears totaled 583 yards of offense, and did that despite the fact that they ran for minus-20 yards on 22 rush attempts. Their 602 yards passing as a team set a school record. BU had a pair of receivers catch more than 100 yards in passes as KD Cannon, a freshman who will be one of the favorites for the Biletnikoff Award in 2015, had 197 yards on eight receptions and Corey Coleman went seven for 150.
Jeremy Langford was also a significant bright spot for MSU as he ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns. This was Langford’s 10th straight 100-yards game after failing to break that plateau in the season’s first three games.
MSU’s two losses this season, incidentally, came to teams that are currently ranked second (Oregon, 46-27) and fourth (Ohio State, 49-37).
After losing its first three games of the postseason, the Big 12 is now 1-4 in bowl games in 2014-15. Including an overtime win by Wisconsin and loss by Minnesota New Year’s Day — both against SEC squads — the Big Ten is suddenly very respectable 4-4 mark. The latter conference still has a significant shot at further redemption for the league as No. 4 Ohio State takes on top-ranked Alabama in a Sugar Bowl matchup that doubles as the last of two College Football Playoff semifinals.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add this:
Ohio State 49, Michigan State 37.
Baylor 61, TCU 58.
Michigan State 42, Baylor 41.
Therefore, Ohio State > Michigan State > Baylor > TCU. Do with that what you will.