Widgets Magazine

Stanford falls to Michigan State 24-20 in the 100th Rose Bowl Game

It’s no secret that Stanford football lives and dies by its running game.

On one of the biggest stages in college football, the Cardinal running engine sputtered and then sputtered some more for over three quarters. And when it mattered the most — when Stanford needed one more yard to keep its last-minute desperation drive alive — the engine went up in flames.

Outcoached and outplayed, No. 5 Stanford (11-3) fell to No. 4 Michigan State (13-1) 24-20 in the 100th Rose Bowl Game, a contest in which Stanford lost the battle at the line of scrimmage both on offense and defense. The Cardinal was stifled by the suffocating Spartan defense for much of the game, and, reminiscent of how it lost to Utah and USC earlier this season, Stanford’s offense couldn’t execute with the game on the line.

“You play all year and you fight all season to get to these moments, to have these opportunities,” said fifth-year senior linebacker Shayne Skov. “You play the game to get these opportunities and have these games, so to lose is incredibly difficult.”

“[Michigan State] played better,” added head coach David Shaw. “They made more plays. That’s the bottom line.”

(AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)

Fifth-year senior inside linebacker Shayne Skov (left) recorded nine tackles, a forced fumble and a sack in his last game in a Cardinal uniform, but it wasn’t enough, as Michigan State stormed back for a 24-20 victory. (AVI BAGLA/The Stanford Daily)

There were no early signs of the Cardinal struggling after a 43-yard connection between junior quarterback Kevin Hogan and sophomore wideout Michael Rector set up a 16-yard touchdown score by senior halfback Tyler Gaffney, who razed safety Isaiah Lewis on his way to the end zone. Gaffney continued to impose his will two drives later when he busted off a 47-yard run that allowed senior kicker Jordan Williamson to hit a 34-yard field goal. With Stanford leading Michigan State 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, the game appeared to be headed toward a Cardinal rout instead of the tight defensive battle it was predicted to be.

But the Cardinal offense wouldn’t even get a whiff of the end zone for the rest of the game.

After rumbling for 67 yards in the first 15 minutes, Gaffney could only muster 24 yards in the next three quarters, and, after displaying an accuracy of a heat-seeking missile on the first drive of the game, Hogan cooled down quickly and didn’t receive much help from his receivers, who dropped multiple passes. Stanford became the definition of offensive futility, going three-and-out or turning the ball over on five of its eight drives after the first quarter.

“[Michigan State] made adjustments after the first couple runs, first couple drives of the series,” Gaffney said, “and we didn’t respond like we needed to.”

Just as the Cardinal offense began to crumble, Spartans quarterback Connor Cook and the rest of his offense started to put the pieces together in the second quarter. Aided by junior outside linebacker Kevin Anderson dropping what should have been a sure interception, Michigan State went on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped by tailback Jeremy Langford’s 2-yard run.

Anderson atoned for his earlier mistake later in the second quarter by intercepting an ill-advised pass from Cook, who was under heavy pressure from fifth-year senior nickelback Usua Amanam, and taking it to the house to put the Cardinal back up by 10.

Cook wasn’t fazed at all, though, not when Stanford’s pass rush failed to hit home and certainly not when the secondary left Spartan receivers wide open at times. On the very next drive, Cook threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to wideout Bennie Fowler — good for 37 yards — and two plays later, Cook rolled out to his right and hit fullback Trevon Pendleton for a 2-yard touchdown.

“[Cook has] played too well in the last nine games of the season to think that we’re going to rattle him,” Shaw said. “He’s made some bad plays before, but, just like today, he bounces back. He’s a tough kid, he’s a big kid and he’s a better athlete than you think.”

The Spartans knotted the game at 17 apiece with an early field goal to start the second half, but the rest of the third quarter turned out to be a defensive slugfest. Stanford failed to clean up its sloppy play, as it committed a season-high eight penalties. Equally frustrating for the Cardinal was its inability to methodically march down the field — 141 of Stanford’s 305 total offensive yards came on just three plays.

“Everywhere I looked there was a green defender,” Gaffney said. “There were glimpses of [us] being successful. There were glimpses of establishing I’d almost say dominance and then we reverted back. It’s tough when you can’t really get a rhythm in the game.”

Just like how it finally caved against USC back in November, the Cardinal defense couldn’t shut down Cook in the fourth quarter. After forcing Stanford to punt out of its own end zone — a Wildcat play on second down deep in Cardinal territory resulted in a loss of 5 — the Spartans saw their best field position of the day at the Cardinal 27, allowing Cook to find wideout Tony Lippett on a post for a 25-yard touchdown to give the Spartans their first lead of the night. Picked on by Cook all day, junior cornerback Wayne Lyons was beat badly by Lippett on the play.

“[Cook’s] got a lot of poise, especially in the pocket, and he’s able to extend plays and find open guys,” Skov said. “We tried to get after him, but, at the same time, I think he remained calm and made plays when he needed to.”

The Cardinal defense managed to keep it a one-possession game. A Williamson field goal put Stanford within four, but Stanford couldn’t get a single first down when it got the ball back with 3:06 left in the game. Gaffney was held to a 1-yard gain on third-and-2, and fifth-year senior Ryan Hewitt was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 that sealed the game. Fittingly enough, it was linebacker Kyler Elsworth, who filled in for the suspended Max Bullough, who jumped over the Cardinal linemen to make the fourth-down stand.

As disappointing as the loss was, the Cardinal seniors and fifth-year seniors, including Skov and outside linebacker Trent Murphy, will end their careers with four straight BCS bowl appearances. Losing the 100th Rose Bowl Game does not take away the fact that the recruiting class of 2009 is the most successful class in school history.

“When you talk about the best teams of the BCS era, you have to mention Stanford University,” Shaw said. “You have to.”

Contact George Chen at gchen15 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About George Chen

George Chen is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily who writes football, football and more football. Previously he worked at The Daily as the President and Editor in Chief, Executive Editor, Managing Editor of Sports, the football beat reporter and a sports desk editor. George also co-authored The Daily's recent book documenting the rise of Stanford football, "Rags to Roses." He is a senior from Painted Post, NY majoring in Biology. To contact him, please email at gchen15@stanford.edu.
  • AK

    Will someone explain the illegal men downfield call? I don’t understand the call, or the rationale behind the rule…

  • mdavt

    Only certain players are ‘eligible receivers’ on a play, generally players on the ends of the formation or in the backfield. The ‘ineligible’ players must remain behind the line of scrimmage on pass plays beyond the line of scrimmage. The eligibility concept goes back to the earliest days of football. On the call in the Rose Bowl, one (or possibly more) of the interior lineman who were ineligible to receive a pass drifted down the field as it was unclear whether the holder would run with or pass the ball. This is somewhat common on broken plays like that one and was the correct call in this case. It does not matter whether the ineligible player catches or touches the ball, he is not allowed to be there on a pass play.

  • beatcal_1

    I’ll be interested to read more about the “outcoached” part. The decision to go for it on fourth and four…in the third quarter?…with the game well in hand?…with a run play? And then more runs on critical short-yardage situations in the 4th quarter when the run hadn’t been working? Love David Shaw, and perhaps I’m just not a knowledgeable enough fan, but I wonder if coaching didn’t cost us this one.

  • Rick

    Outcoached? How about terribly coached – at least for this game. So frustrating to watch as a fan. Good article here: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jan/01/stanford-michigan-state-rose-bowl-calkins/

  • Alobar King

    Did anyone else find the pass interference call against Stanford in the end zone unconsionable? The contact occured after the uncatchable ball passed the receiver. Set up a Spartan touchdown next play.

  • Richard Delicata


  • Richard Delicata


  • Richard Delicata


  • Richard Delicata


  • Richard Delicata


  • Alobar King

    With better officiating, Stanford would have easily won by seven.

  • fuck off

    i hope you wreck your snowmobile and your entire family dies

  • mdavt

    Wow, that’s really hilarious. Officiating? Really?

  • John Conrad

    You mean Go Green.

  • John Conrad


  • danderson

    You only wish Blue was playing. They have a long long ways to go to make it past MSU, OSU, Nebraska, and Penn State if they are to play in the Rose Bowl. Go Green!

  • danderson

    They lost it at the line of scrimmage.


    Go Blue = Go Blow

  • Not a Shaw fan

    I think David Shaw sometimes are mentally blocked. He would continue to run #25 over and over and over, a pattern that any sane opponent would pick up. That’s why Stanford lost this game and the ones with Utah and USC. With a better coach, Stanford should have been in the national championship game. The players are good, the coach can’t make predictable calls all game long. You need to have a balance between run and pass. Hope David Shaw decides to leave, the players deserve a better coach.

  • Jim

    Ignore the university of Michigan fans posting. It was a good game, and the MSU Spartans have a great deal of respect for your players and coach. By the way, if you are mentioning penalties, like the uncatchable PI, then take a look at the pick six by Cook. Your safety (#15) goes unblocked and gets to Cook, and he forces the throw. Still bad decision, but 15 was lined up in the neutral zone even after he tried to step back. Just freeze at snap of ball and you will clearly see it. I don’t see where you were out-coached. Gaffney had 91 yards on 24 carries, but one was for 47 yards. After the adjustments he had 23 carries for 44 yards. The offense put up 13 points, and only 3 in second half. MSU threw the ball a little better, and their defense play a little better. Two close teams, that play a lot alike. Who would think that after the 47 yard run, that going to Gaffney wouldn’t work. Also, the Cardinal hit some long balls, but only completed 10 total passes. Waynes also made a great play on the one int. I thought it was just a tough battle of teams with tough players on both sides of the ball.

  • Independent Thinker

    Dear Coach Shaw …please accept a job in the NFL!!!!!!