PASADENA, Calif. -- It was one of 100 for the Rose Bowl, the "granddaddy of them all," as it is billed, but for Michigan State, the winner yesterday on the first day of 2014, it was one of a kind.
"Thirteen-and-one," bellowed Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, as he accepted the trophy, "can't get much better than that."
Down 10-0 after the first quarter, Michigan State snuffed Stanford with a defense as impressive as its No. 4 ranking and beat the Cardinal, 24-20, before 95,173 on a day when the thermometer hit 78 degrees and the Spartans hit Stanford with force.
Seemingly in control after the opening period, No. 5 Stanford (11-3) suddenly was stunned by the Spartans, getting only 159 yards and 10 points the rest of the way. Michigan State's only loss during the season was to Notre Dame, 17-13.
"We controlled the tempo of the game," said Dantonio, stating the obvious, which is allowed when your school hasn't been in the Rose Bowl for 16 years.
The winning touchdown came on a 25-yard pass from Connor Cook to Tony Lippett, breaking a tie at 17 a minute and a half into the fourth quarter. Cook, who completed 22 of 36 for 332 yards and two touchdowns, was chosen offensive player of the game.
Kyler Elsworth, starting at linebacker for the suspended Max Bullough, earned the defensive honor and was the tackler when on fourth-and-1 Stanford failed to get a yard on its final offensive play with 1:46 left in the game.
"Connor Cook is resilient," Dantonio said. In the second quarter, a 40-yard return for a touchdown of an intercepted Cook pass had dropped the Spartans into a 17-7 hole. But from that point, Stanford had only a field goal.
"They're good at what they do," Stanford coach David Shaw said of Michigan State. 'They're going to give you opportunities to make big plays, and we made a couple. But it's a nine-man front. To beat a team like that you've got to hit more than a couple of deep balls."
And stop the opponent from sweeping when it wasn't throwing or powering.
"The style of play is similar," Shaw said. "Two teams that play great defense, that run the ball and try to make big plays in the passing game. We didn't make enough plays for us to be on the right side."
The Spartans did. "We just knew this was a special football team," Dantonio said.
After Kevin Anderson picked off Cook's pass for a TD with 2:51 left in the second quarter, it appeared Stanford, up by 10, was going to win its second consecutive Rose Bowl.
"But to go into a two-minute drive and get a touchdown [on Cook's 2-yard pass to Trevon Pendleton]," Dantonio said, "and to cut [the deficit] to three rather than going into the locker room down 10 was huge.
"I was impressed with [Stanford], but when push came to shove, we started shoving back."