Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Spartans Come From Behind to Defeat Bears in 79th Classic

Photo By: Photo by Ian Halperin, CBAA

Baylor was out to make a statement to the College Football Playoff committee. The only problem: Michigan State came to play.

Connor Cook passed for 314 yards and two touchdowns and Jeremy Langford rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns as Michigan State completed a 20-point rally to top Baylor, 42-41, in the Good Year Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T stadium on Thursday.

Down 41-21, Connor Cook hit Josiah Price for an 8-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Spartans recovered an onside kick, but on the third play of the drive, Baylor linebacker Taylor Young intercepted a Cook pass. Momentum appeared to have shifted back to Baylor, but Michigan State held strong and gave its offense the ball back.

Langford took advantage and cut Baylor’s lead to six with a 1-yard touchdown with 4:55 remaining. Baylor drove down to Michigan State territory on the ensuing possession, but Lawrence Thomas blocked a 43-yard Callahan field goal attempt. 

The Spartans took over at their own 45 with 1:05 to go with no timeouts. Still, Cook delivered under pressure. Three plays after finding Tony Lippett for a 17-yard gain on a key 4th-and-10, Cook connected with Keith Mumphrey for the go-ahead score on a 10-yard touchdown strike with 17 seconds to go.

It was Michigan State’s first lead since late in the first quarter.

Michigan State came into the contest allowing just 19.9 points per game. But the Spartans had no answer for Baylor’s arsenal of weapons and fast-paced offense early on. The Bears rank first in the country in total offense (581.3 ypg) and scoring offense (48.8 ppg).

Bryce Petty set a Cotton Bowl record with 550 yards passing and three touchdowns while wide receivers KD Cannon and Casey Coleman combined for 347 yards receiving and three scores. Petty became the first Baylor quarterback to win a bowl MVP since Cody Carlson in 1985.

But Michigan State’s defense came up big when it mattered most, holding Baylor to minus-20 rushing yards and zero points in the fourth quarter. Thomas and Marcus Rush sacked Petty on Baylor’s final drive and Riley Bullough came away with the game-sealing interception.

After Langford scored on a 2-yard run to give Michigan State a 7-0 less than two minutes into the game, Cannon responded by hauling in a 49-yard touchdown. He then proceeded to “throw up the X,” mimicking Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant.

Cannon looked eerily similar to the NFL star and was certainly an X-factor. Just 28 seconds into the third quarter, Cannon broke the game open with a 74-yard touchdown down reception to give the Bears a commanding 31-14 lead.

Baylor appeared to be in full control of the game at that point. But the Bears, who ended the season ranked No. 5 and won a share of the Big 12 title, failed to close out the game just a day after watching Big 12 bunkmate TCU make its own case to the committee with a 42-3 beat down of Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl.

The two teams scored a combined 83 points, a Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic record.

Michigan State finished the year 11-2, which is tied for the second-most wins in school history. The Spartans are 2-0 all-time against Baylor — their last win came back in 1968.

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