PASADENA, Calif. — Connor Cook passed for a career-high 332 yards and hit Tony Lippett with a tiebreaking 25-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, leading No. 4 Michigan State to a 24-20 victory over No. 5 Stanford on Wednesday night in the 100th Rose Bowl.
Cook also threw a touchdown pass to Trevon Pendleton, and Jeremy Langford rushed for 84 yards and a score in the first Rose Bowl victory in 26 years for the Spartans (13-1), who won their final 10.
Michigan State's defense had a smash-mouth performance to cap a dominant season that included two defensive TDs in a 21-6 victory over USF on Sept. 7.
"It's a special time for all Spartans," coach Mark Dantonio said. "I'm very happy for our football team, the resilience we showed all season long."
Dantonio, thought to be a candidate for the Texas opening, said after the game he intended to stay. Reports late Wednesday said Dantonio had accepted a contract extension.
The nation's best defense stopped the Cardinal (11-3) on fourth and 1 with 1:46 to play. Kyler Elsworth, who started in place of suspended captain Max Bullough, hurdled the pile to deliver a head-on hit to fullback Ryan Hewitt at the Stanford 34 and Hewitt was swarmed.
"Opportunities come for other players, and they have an opportunity to make good on it,'' Dantonio said. "Kyler Elsworth got a chance to make a play, makes the play of the game."
Elsworth was named the game's defensive MVP.
"You have to give it to Michigan State for stuffing that," said Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney, who gained 91 yards but only 24 after the first quarter. "Everybody in the building knew exactly what was coming."
After Tournament of Roses Parade grand marshal Vin Scully flipped the coin, Stanford started with a 77-yard drive culminating in Gaffney's 16-yard touchdown run.
Michigan State had not trailed by double digits all season until Jordan Williamson's field goal put Stanford up 10-0 late in the first quarter. The Spartans answered with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
Stanford linebacker Kevin Anderson returned an interception 40 yards for a score late in the first half to make it 17-7. Michigan State took over the momentum from there.
The Spartans will finish in the top 5 in the rankings for the first time since after the 1966 season and the "Game of the Century" tie with Notre Dame.
"When we got down, guys were always helping each other," Cook said.