Monday, October 19, 2020

Great moments in MSU sports history: A classic Cotton Bowl

March 27, 2020
Head Coach Mark Dantonio holds the trophy and celebrates the win with his team Jan. 1, 2015, during the Cotton Bowl Classic football game against Baylor at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Spartans defeated the Bears and claimed the Cotton Bowl victory, 42-41. Photo by Erin Hampton. Design by Daena Faustino.
Head Coach Mark Dantonio holds the trophy and celebrates the win with his team Jan. 1, 2015, during the Cotton Bowl Classic football game against Baylor at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Spartans defeated the Bears and claimed the Cotton Bowl victory, 42-41. Photo by Erin Hampton. Design by Daena Faustino. —

Michigan State has canceled all sports activities as our community deals with the COVID-19 crisis. In a time when sports have ceased, The State News is looking back at great moments in Michigan State sports history. Soon, we’ll be back to a world with sports, but for now, the past will have to do.

We'll be compiling these moments into a bracket with the MSU community voting on the best one, starting on April 1, via Twitter.

Date: Jan. 1, 2015

Venue: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

Matchup: No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Baylor

The Background: Coming off a historic season that concluded in a Rose Bowl victory, Michigan State entered the 2014-15 season in defense of its Big Ten title, seeking a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff. MSU’s title defense was upended by Ohio State’s run to the national title and J.T. Barrett’s coming-out party in East Lansing. The freshman, who took over for the injured senior Braxton Miller, completed 16-of-26 attempts for 300 yards while sophomore Ezekiel Elliot had quite a day himself, rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. The Spartans entered bowl season with two losses, the other coming in Eugene to Marcus Mariota and Oregon, Ohio State’s opponent in the national final. MSU drew Baylor in the Cotton bowl, as the Bears came off what many argued was a wrongful exclusion from the playoff.

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The Game: On the third play of the game, Jeremy Langford exploded for 65 yards to the Baylor 1. Nick Hill would vulture the score to give MSU a quick 7-0 lead. Baylor responded with some explosiveness of their own, as Bryce Petty found KD Cannon for 49 yards to knot the score. MSU would go scoreless for the rest of the first after an R.J. Shelton touchdown carry on the ensuing drive.

Baylor took a 24-14 lead into the half. Petty hit Cannon for 74 yards and a score to start the second half, one that seemed out of reach for MSU down the stretch. With Baylor up 41-21 early in the 4th, Chris Callahan’s missed field goal from 46 yards out seemed insignificant.

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But then came the comeback. A 50-yard reception by Keith Mumphery was one of his two huge catches on the day and aided quick answer in just over two minutes. MSU’s defense answered a Baylor interception by forcing a turnover on downs, and a methodical ensuing drive brought the Spartans within a score as the Jumbotron read 41-35 with 4:55 to play. With 1:05 to play, Callahan lined up for another field goal, this time from 43 yards out. The kick was blocked, Callahan upended on the return by Tony Lippett’s more-than-forceful blocking, as RJ Williamson sped off to the Baylor 45.

Connor Cook found Mumphery for a 10-yard touchdown reception with 17 seconds to play, and Michael Geiger tacked on the all-important extra point. Riley Bullough intercepted Petty with 7 seconds remaining to seal the one-point victory, as the Spartans went on to complete one of their most historic postseason comebacks, 42-41.

The Aftermath: Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi enjoyed his last victory as Michigan State’s defensive mastermind before going on to accept the head job at Pitt. Michigan State would make it back to Arlington for the second year in a row in the ensuing season, this time in the college football playoff. The result was one to forget for the Spartans, as the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide rolled to a 38-0 victory en route to a national title.

 

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