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Michigan State beats Stanford 24-20 in Rose Bowl

Michigan State defensive end Denzel Drone celebrates after sacking Stanford quarterback KevHogan during second half Rose Bowl NCAA college football

Michigan State defensive end Denzel Drone celebrates after sacking Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan during the second half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

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Updated: January 1, 2014 8:06PM

PASADENA, Calif. -- Stanford built a championship season on wearing teams down with its punishing ground attack and winning close games. But in its most important game, the roles were reversed as Michigan State came back from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit, outplayed Stanford in the second half and finished a 13-1 season with a 24-20 Rose Bowl triumph Wednesday.

Stanford ran the ball for 102 yards in the first half against the nation’s No.1 defense that had allowing an average of just 81 yards a game. But Stanford ran for only 10 yards in the third quarter -- and got stuffed on two key fourth-down plays in the second half -- as Michigan State turned momentum around and wore down the Cardinal.

“We’re a 13-1 football team, and we won the Rose Bowl,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said after the game in a TV interview. “Can’t get much better than that.”

Michigan State, ranked No. 4, but a 6½-point underdog to No. 7 Stanford, took its first lead on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Connor Cook to Tony Lippett early in the fourth quarter to make it 24-17.

Cook, a 6-4 sophomore, had a roller-coaster day, throwing a pick-six interception and having two other seemingly sure interceptions dropped by Stanford. But he kept chucking it and fueled the Spartans’ comeback, ultimately throwing for 332 yards and two touchdowns.

Stanford led 17-14 at halftime and scored in the second half only on a 39-yard Jordan Williamson field goal with 4:15 left in the game.

The Cardinal got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with 3:06 on the clock and one timeout. On third-and-2, running back Tyler Gaffney was stopped for a 1-yard gain. On fourth-and-1, fullback Ryan Hewitt was stopped for no gain, and that was the ballgame.

Stanford (11-3) hoped to win by grinding away with workhorse running back Gaffney, and he got off to a great start. But after running for 79 yards and a touchdown in the first half, Gaffney was hemmed in by Michigan State’s veteran defense in the second half. He finished with 91 yards.

The game was played in beautiful California winter weather -- sunny and 78 degrees at kickoff -- and the team from California got off to a fast start.

On the second play from scrimmage, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan threw a perfect deep ball caught by Michael Rector for a 43-yard gain.

Five plays later, Gaffney took a handoff up the middle, bounced off one Michigan defender and scampered into the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

A 47-yard run by Gaffney set up a 34-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.

Then Michigan State finally made an offensive push, moving the ball downfield, getting a pass interference call in the end zone and scoring a touchdown on a two-yard run by Jeremy Langford to make it 10-7.

Cook connected on several key passes on the scoring drive, but late in the second quarter, he coughed up a terrible pass under duress.

Stanford linebacker Kevin Anderson, who dropped what should have been an interception earlier in the quarter, caught the ill-advised lob and ran it 40 yards for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead.

Cook rebounded, however, passing the Spartans to a quick score before halftime. His 37-yard pass to Bennie Fowler gave Michigan State a first down at the Stanford 3. Cook, on second down, avoided a strong rush and found Trevon Pendleton for a two-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-14.

Then the Spartans struck first in the second half, tying it 17-17 on a Michael Geiger 31-yard field goal.

Stanford got into Michigan State territory on a 51-yard pass from Hogan to Devon Cajuste but, on fourth-and-3 at the Spartans 36-yard line, Gaffney was wrapped up by Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen behind the line of scrimmage for a three-yard loss.

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