Friday, May 25, 2018
Colleges

Outback Bowl: No. 12 Michigan State Spartans 33, No. 18 Georgia Bulldogs 30 (3 OT)

TAMPA — The really frigid stuff that hit the area Monday evening was preceded by a furious, frenetic system originating in East Lansing, Mich.

To be sure, it took time to develop, lacking an initial offensive wallop. But upon reaching full intensity at mid afternoon inside Raymond James Stadium, it rendered the hyped homecoming of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to an excruciating Dawg day of winter.

Devoid of timeouts, No. 12 Michigan State forced overtime with a near-flawless touchdown drive in the final two minutes, then outlasted Georgia (10-4) in three extra sessions for a 33-30 Outback Bowl triumph before an audience of 49,429.

Nose tackle Anthony Rashad White's block of a 47-yard Blair Walsh field goal on the final play sealed things and sent the Spartans (11-3) — who hadn't won a bowl game in 10 years — spilling onto the RayJay turf.

"Greatest feeling I have ever felt in college football," MSU defensive end and former Plant City High star Denzel Drone said. "I'm back home, all my people got to watch me play and we had a blast. Three overtimes — best thing that ever happened."

Drone's delirium stood in glaring contrast to Murray's disappointment.

Though initially sharp in his return home, Plant's former state title-winning quarterback threw a pair of costly third-quarter interceptions, the second of which Darqueze Dennard returned 38 yards for a TD to cut the Spartans' deficit to 16-14.

Dennard hails from Dry Branch, Ga.

"It stings," said Murray, who finished with respectable numbers (20-for-32, 288 yards) that included an 80-yard TD pass to Tavarres King that gave Georgia a 9-0 second-quarter lead.

"It is going to hurt to know that we had our opportunities to win this game, but we didn't. Obviously they played a great game and did a great job of not giving in and fighting the whole way, so you've got to give them some credit."

The Spartans, still smoldering from a three-point loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, had three times as many punts (six) as first downs by halftime against a sleek, aggressive Bulldogs defense.

On their first play from scrimmage at their 2-yard line, Spartans receiver Keshawn Martin took a swing pass from Kirk Cousins but was leveled in his own end zone by cornerback Brandon Boykin.

With less than two minutes to play before halftime, Boykin — the game MVP — returned a punt 92 yards for a TD to give Georgia a 16-0 lead at intermission.

"We just talked about if you want it, you've got to take it back and keep believing, just believe," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. "And that's what our guys did."

No drive epitomized that belief more than the last one of regulation. Trailing 27-20 with 1:55 to play and no timeouts, Cousins completed 6 of 8 passes for 64 yards and scrambled for a 20-yard gain before Le'Veon Bell's 1-yard TD with 14 seconds to go.

"That's why Kirk Cousins is who he is," Dantonio said.

Cousins, the winningest quarterback in MSU history, was picked on a pass over the middle by Bacarri Rambo on the first overtime, but Georgia failed to capitalize when Walsh missed a 42-yard field goal.

Minutes later, in one fell swat by White, the Spartans were celebrating.

"I don't even have words for it," MSU safety and former Wharton High star Jairus Jones said. "Oh my goodness, we've been in too many of these, but I love it — every time."

 
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