Before the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans defeated the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes 34-24 to clinch a trip to their first Rose Bowl since 1988, there was a moment earlier in the game where it appeared the Buckeyes were going to steal it.
With less than 7:40 to go in the game, and Michigan State up 27-24, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier blocked MSU punter Mike Sadler’s punt, giving the Buckeyes terrific field position, starting their drive from the MSU 47 yard line.
From there, it appeared quarterback Braxton Miler and the rest of the Buckeyes would have the opportunity to drive down the short field and take the lead late in the game.
However, three plays later and it was 4th and 1 from the MSU 38 yard line. Miller, who had rushed for 142 yards on the night, took the snap and scrambled out to his right.
But the Spartan defense, much like they have all year, once again came up big, this time seeing senior linebacker Denicos Allen stopping Miller short of the first down, giving the Spartans the ball with 5:41 to play.
Moments later, on 2nd and 2 from the Ohio State 26 yard line, junior MSU running back Jeremy Langford found a hole and broke through Ohio State’s second line of defense. With a huge smile spreading across his face, Langford crossed the goal line, solidifying victory for the Spartans, finishing the game with his eighth straight 100 yard rushing game, this time going for 128 yards on 24 carries.
“All of a sudden I think we saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” MSU head football coach Mark Dantonio said of that last touchdown. “We’ve done that before throughout every game. (Jeremy) Langford again has a big run at the end of the game…Sort of a signature type thing for him.”
The score gave Michigan State a 34-24 lead with 2:16 to play, where it would stay to the end of the game, making the Spartans Big Ten Champions as well as on their way to their first Rose Bowl since 1988.
But none of it would have happened without the stellar play of MSU sophomore quarterback Connor Cook, who has really come full circle this season, finishing the game going 24-40 with 304 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.
“It’s surreal,” Cook said. “Things you dream about as a kid. You dream about playing Division 1 football. You dream about leading your team to a Big Ten Championship. You dream about being able to play in the Rose Bowl.”
“And where I was at in September, my confidence wasn’t that high. And as soon as we got the games rolling around, the offense started clicking, my confidence started clicking…The journey has been cool with me but as a team the journey amongst all of us has been even better.”
Next up for the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans (12-1), they’ll make their way to Pasadena to take on the PAC-12 champion Stanford Cardinal (11-2) in the Rose Bowl.
“I’m really just so, so happy,” Dantonio said. ”My dad used to always say, Complete your circles. I thought we did that. I thought that’s what we did. I never get too excited. I don’t ever get too down. I live for my players. Our players, I’m so happy for them. They made a lifetime moment tonight for all of us all of us had that moment, our fans, our players. It will be a moment that we’ll never forget.”
Below is a video of the locker room celebration of the Michigan State football team following its Big Ten Championship victory Ohio State: