The Stanford Cardinal fell 24-20 to a very tough Michigan State team in a true battle in this year’s Rose Bowl. A back-and-forth nail-biter went the Spartans’ way in the second half, but the Cardinal played very hard and deserves plenty of credit for its valiant effort against the nation’s top defense.
Kevin Hogan and Tyler Gaffney led the Cardinal on a superb touchdown drive to open the game. Going up against one of the best pass defenses in college football, not to mention the nation’s top defensive back in Darqueze Dennard, Hogan shocked the Spartans with a beautiful 43-yard completion to Michael Rector on the second play of the game to open up the offense.
Gaffney took it from there, bouncing off of a Michigan State defender who failed to wrap him up and scampering into the end zone from 16 yards out to give the Cardinal a 7-0 lead.
Stanford’s defense then held Connor Cook and the Spartans on two consecutive drives, forcing back-to-back punts. Jordan Williamson then hit a field goal from 34 yards out to extend his team’s lead to 10-0 before the end of the first quarter.
Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford punched in a 2-yard score early in the second quarter, but Stanford’s defense responded with a huge play when Kevin Anderson intercepted a Cook pass and took it back 40 yards for a score.
The Spartans managed to score another touchdown with less than 30 seconds left in the half, and the Cardinal took that 17-14 lead into the break.
Michigan State opened the second half up with a huge pass play, but the Cardinal managed to hold the Spartans to a field goal and the game was tied up at 17. On the ensuing drive, Hogan took another deep shot, but this one found the hands of Michigan State defensive back Trae Waynes for the interception.
The Cardinal defense held strong once again, however, and the tie was not broken until the early fourth quarter when Cook hit Tony Lippett for a 25-yard touchdown strike to give the Spartans a 24-17 lead.
After a successful fake field goal conversion by Stanford was called back due to penalty, the Cardinal settled for a field goal deep in Michigan State territory to draw within four points late in the fourth quarter.
With just over three minutes to play, Hogan got the ball back with one final shot to give his team the lead. The Spartans, however, stuffed two short run plays by the Cardinal on consecutive downs, and ran the clock out with under two minutes to go in the game.
This may not be the way David Shaw and Stanford wanted to finish the season, but they still should be very proud of their second consecutive conference championship and another great season.