Connor Cook leads Michigan State Spartans to Rose Bowl win

Ben Liebenberg/NFL
QB Connor Cook led Michigan State to a Rose Bowl win on Wednesday.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Big plays decided a defensively oriented 100th Rose Bowl game, and Michigan State made enough of them to outlast Stanford, 24-20, Wednesday.

Tony Lippett scored on a 25-yard reception from quarterback Connor Cook with 13:22 left in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the difference as the Spartans won the Granddaddy of Them All in their first visit since 1988.

Cook alternated between being Michigan State's best player and its worst enemy, making several brilliant throws after evading the Stanford pass rush, but also lobbing an ill-advised duck right into the hands of outside linebacker Kevin Anderson for a 40-yard pick six shortly before halftime.

But the 6-foot-4, 218-pound sophomore did more right than wrong, ending up 22-of-36 passing for a career-high 332 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Once Cook settled in, it allowed head coach Mark Dantonio to unleash the touted Michigan State defense, which stuffed fullback Ryan Hewitt on a fourth-and-1 with 1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Cornerback Darqueze Dennard -- the winner of the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back this season -- had three tackles with one for loss, limiting Stanford's Ty Montgomery to 21 yards on three receptions with his aggressive press coverage before the junior wide receiver left the game with an injury.

Michigan State had 10 tackles for loss and limited Stanford to 305 yards of total offense, 141 of which came on three plays.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.