All’s well that ends well.
With a 21-point 4th quarter comeback in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day 2015, the Michigan State University Spartans football team salvaged the 2014 season, making themselves relevant once again while vanquishing the Baylor Bears into nothingness.
The 11-2 Spartans can now enjoy the next few months knowing that this season’s losses came only at the hands of the two teams competing for the first-ever College Football Playoff Championship that will take place on January 12th, Oregon & Ohio St. Not too bad when it’s all said and done.
Thursday’s 42-41 final score was etched into the books with 17 seconds remaining in the game, capping an amazing team victory where every player contributed to the unbelievable comeback. The game was lost in so many different ways that it’s difficult to comprehend how the Spartans pulled it off. But they did.
With 1:05 remaining on the clock, Marcus Rush blocked a 43-yard Baylor field goal that would have put the game out of possible reach, sending the deflected kick into the arms of R.J. Williamson, who took the ball back 36 yards to the Baylor 46.
Next came the epic closing drive.
First Connor Cook hit Keith Mumphery for 18 yards down to the 27. This couldn’t be happening. Then three incompletions made it 4th & 10. Had Cook finally run out of luck? Nope.
A 17-yard strike to Tony Lippett gave MSU a first down at the Baylor 10, and there was one more step left to take. After two more incompletions, Cook showed the calm confidence of a true winner, delivering a tight spiral into the arms of Mumphery in the back of the end zone with only seconds remaining. Pandemonium ensued inside AT&T Stadium while Spartan fans everywhere cheered in jubilant disbelief.
After a touchback gave Baylor one last chance from their own 25, the Bears’ hopes were crushed by back-to-back sacks by Lawrence Thomas and Marcus Rush before Riley Bullough said sayonara with a cherry-on-top interception with two seconds left.
This is what the victory means: Connor Cook has three bowl victories as a Michigan State quarterback in three tries, Mark Dantonio has won his fourth-consecutive bowl game as MSU head coach (and second in a row on New Year’s Day after the 2014 Rose Bowl), Pat Narduzzi goes out a winner in his final game as defensive coordinator (his defensive unit shut out Baylor in the final quarter), and best of all, Michigan State should finish in the Top 5 of the rankings once again.
There is some solace in the fact that both Oregon and Ohio State looked wonderful in their Rose and Sugar Bowl victories, respectively, in the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinals. Both of MSU’s losses this season were tough to swallow by anyone’s account, with Sparty holding a lead in both matchups only to see things slip away. Clearly, Oregon and Ohio State are the two best teams in college football this season. The Spartans, as well, are undeniable champions.
Dan Krier is the host of Walk the Line for Impact Sports