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Connor Cook passed for a career-high 332 yards and hit Tony Lippett with a tiebreaking 25-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, leading No. 4 Michigan State to a 24-20 victory over No. 5 Stanford on Wednesday night in the 100th Rose Bowl.
Cook also threw a TD pass to Trevon Pendleton, and Jeremy Langford rushed for 84 yards and a score in the first Rose Bowl victory in 26 years for the Big Ten champion Spartans (13-1), who finished the season with 10 straight wins.
Michigan State's defense capped its dominant season with one more smash-mouth performance during the centennial celebration of the Granddaddy of Them All. The Spartans ended it by stopping the Pac-12 champion Cardinal (11-3) on fourth-and-1 with 1:46 to play, utterly stuffing a run play up the middle.
Kyler Elsworth, the fifth-year senior filling in for suspended starting linebacker Max Bullough, hurdled the pile and flew into Michigan State lore with a spectacular head-on tackle.
"When I saw their offensive linemen's stance, I knew the way to make a play was to go over the top," said Elsworth, the game's defensive MVP. "I was hoping they would run a play like they did on their fourth down. It's a one-in-a-lifetime play. We proved we could play on the big stage on the national level."
Cook led in his own inimitable fashion, making incredible plays and huge mistakes along the way. Along with his second-quarter interception on a lollipop of a throw to Anderson, who scored untouched, he also threw two passes that went through the hands of Cardinal defenders.
But when the Spartans needed big plays in the second half, Cook repeatedly delivered, finishing 22 for 36.
"When we got down, guys were always helping each other," Cook said. "We're such a balanced team."
Michigan State fans dominated the Rose Bowl grounds and stands, with about 70 percent wearing green in the crowd of 95,173 -- the game's largest turnout since 1998. Tens of thousands of those fans stayed in the stands long after the Spartans had left the field, dancing and singing to the Michigan State band's music.
Bullough was on his teammates' minds, and his number was written on a towel by linebacker Taiwan Jones. But Elsworth capably handled Bullough's work before making the play of his life on that final tackle.
"You have to give it to Michigan State for stuffing that," said Stanford's Tyler Gaffney, who managed just 24 yards of his 91 yard after the first quarter. "Everybody in the building knew exactly what was coming. A run was coming up the middle, and it was a test of wills, and they got the better of us."