QB Cousins leads late MSU rally, other scores
TAMPA, Fla. Down a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining and a long way to go, Kirk Cousins found a way to give Michigan State a parting gift.
A cornerstone of coach Mark Dantonio’s rebuilding project, Cousins led a late rally in the fourth quarter and Dan Conroy kicked a 28-yard field goal in the third overtime to lift the 12th-ranked Spartans over the No. 18 Bulldogs, 33-30, Monday in the Outback Bowl.
Michigan State (11-3) ended a five-game bowl losing streak with its first postseason win since beating Fresno State in the 2001 Silicon Valley Bowl.
To do it, the Spartans—who had been 0-4 in bowl games under Dantonio—overcame a 16-0 halftime deficit and scored the tying touchdown with 14 seconds left in regulation.
“All week, all month, really, there was a sense of urgency in our preparation because the fact that for me as a senior, this was the last shot. Certainly all game long we felt that same way,” said Cousins, who completed 27 of 50 passes for 300 yards and was intercepted three times.
He was at his best during the tying 85-play, 10-yard drive in the closing minutes.
Georgia’s Blair Walsh became the Southeastern Conference’s career scoring leader with a field goal in the second extra period. But he missed a 42-yarder in the first overtime after conservative play-calling and had a 47-yard attempt blocked on the final play of the game.
The Spartans gave the Big Ten its lone win in three bowl matchups Monday against SEC opponents—Florida beat Ohio State and South Carolina stopped Nebraska.
“Big win against a great football team, against an SEC team, against a team that won their division and that was
10-2 in the regular season. ... There’s not a football team that we cannot play with and not win against. We’ve done that,” Dantonio said.
“We’ve beaten every football team in the Big Ten in the last four years. The standard has been set by our seniors. ... Two 11-win seasons, There’s not too many football teams in the country that are saying that right now. I would think that this, hopefully, helps solidify a Top 10 ranking in this year’s final polls.”
Georgia (10-4) finished on a two-game losing streak.
Cousins guided the Spartans on their late drive without the aid of any timeouts, and Le’Veon Bell’s second touchdown of the game wiped out a 27-20 deficit. Cousins threw a 7-yard TD pass to Keith Nichol midway through the period and finished the day as Michigan State’s career passing and total offense leader.
The senior from Holland, Mich., was intercepted in the first overtime, giving the ball to Georgia. After the Bulldogs had a short run on their first play in overtime, coach Mark Richt elected to simply center the ball for a field goal try on third down, and Walsh’s kick was wide.
The Spartans’ comeback overshadowed a standout performance by Georgia’s Brandon Boykin. The cornerback scored a safety, returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown and caught a 13-yard TD pass that helped the Bulldogs take a late lead that one of the nation’s stingiest defenses could not protect down the stretch.
-- (3) Oklahoma State 41, (4) Stanford 38, OT—At Glendale, Ariz., Brandon Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns to Justin Blackmon in his final collegiate game, and Quinn Sharp hit a 22-yard field goal in overtime to lift Oklahoma State past Andrew Luck and Stanford.
Two of the nation’s best teams traded big plays and scores.
Oklahoma State (12-1) had the last one on Sharp’s game-winner to win in its first BCS bowl game, earning a chance to stake claim at being No. 1 in The Associated Press poll should Alabama beat LSU in the BCS title game.
Stanford (11-2) had a chance to win in regulation, but redshirt freshman Jordan Williamson hooked a 35-yard field goal wide left as time expired. He also missed from 43 yards in overtime.
-- (20) Houston 30, (24) Penn State 14—At Dallas, Penn State’s tumultuous year ended with a loss, a dispiriting finish to a season in which coach Joe Paterno was fired as part of a child sex-abuse scandal that shook college sports.
The Nittany Lions were picked apart by Cougars star Case Keenum, who threw for 532 yards and three TDs. Penn State was allowing 162 yards passing per game, but Keenum threw for more than double that by halftime.
He burned the Nittany Lions’ veteran secondary with touchdown passes of 40 and 75 yards to build a 24-7 lead by halftime.
Capital One Bowl
-- (10) South Carolina 30, (21) Nebraska 13—At Orlando, Fla., Connor Shaw threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score, and South Carolina had six sacks as the Gamecocks shut out Nebraska over the final three quarters.
The victory gave South Carolina 11 wins for the first time in school history and snapped a string of three straight bowl losses.
Nebraska lost its second consecutive bowl game and drops to 12-6 all-time in bowl matchups against SEC foes.
- Florida 24, Ohio State 17 —At Jacksonville, Fla., Andre Debose returned a kickoff 99 yards—the longest scoring play in Gator Bowl history—and Chris Rainey blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown Florida.
The speedsters helped the Gators (7-6) avoid their first losing season since 1979 and pick up some much-needed momentum after losing six of their previous eight games.
Ohio State (6-7) finished below .500 for the first time since 1986.