PASADENA, Calif. – What many pegged as a physical, low-scoring affair and one of the most even matchups of the bowl season is living up to its billing through 30 minutes.
No. 5 Stanford and No. 4 MSU traded punches and each team probably could have landed a couple more but failed to capitalize. Heading into the locker room the Cardinal lead MSU 17-14 in the 100th Rose Bowl game.
After MSU won the coin toss and deferred until the second half, Stanford came out swinging and found the end zone on its first drive. Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan hit receiver Michael Rector for a 43-yard completion on the second play from scrimmage thanks to a coverage bust from sophomore cornerback Trae Waynes.
Five plays later one of the nation’s finest running backs, Tyler Gaffney, rumbled 16 yards for the touchdown when senior safety Isaiah Lewis hit him but bounced off after not wrapping up.
Stanford went three-and-out the second time out, but increased its lead to double digits in the first quarter with a 34-yard field goal.
The Spartans got the wheels turning on their third possession, as sophomore quarterback Connor Cook engineered a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped off by a 2-yard sprint to the corner of the end zone by junior running back Jeremy Langford.
Just as MSU appeared to have the momentum, Cook made a costly mistake and was intercepted by linebacker Kevin Anderson, who returned it 40 yards to the house with 2:07 left in the half, making it a 17-7 game.
Rather than running the ball and melting the clock, the Spartans stayed aggressive when Cook and Co. hit the field after the pick-six.
First it was a 24-yard strike to junior receiver Tony Lippett, then an 11-yard pass to Langford followed by an impressive arcing lob to senior Bennie Fowler at the Stanford 3-yard line. MSU backed up five yards due to a delay of game call, but Cook hit Lippett for six more yards before finding sophomore fullback Trevon Pendleton alone in the end zone from two yards out.
Stanford got the ball back with 28 ticks on the clock and kneeled to end the half.
Cook completed 15 of his 23 throws for 198 yards, a touchdown and the interception. Lippett was his favorite receiver, gaining 69 yards on four catches while sophomore Macgarrett Kings had a productive first half with three catches for 48 yards.
Langford has 32 rushing yards on nine carries in the first half. His streak of eight consecutive 100-yard rushing games is on the line.
Share and discuss “Spartans trail Stanford 17-14 at halftime of 100th Rose Bowl” on social media.