The No. 13 Spartans ended a decade of bowl futility by coming back from a 16-0 halftime deficit to beat Georgia, 33-30, in triple overtime Monday in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.Dantonio, who came into the game 0-for-4 in bowls as Michigan State's coach, pulled the Outback Bowl trophy a little closer to him as he addressed the media following the game.
"We've been waiting for one of these bowl trophies for five years," Dantonio said. "Thrilled to have it"It just points toward us becoming an elite program. There's not a football team that we cannot play with and not win against. We've done that. We've beaten every football team in the Big Ten Conference within the last four years. The standard has been set by our seniors. We're going to have to continue to work and grow as a program with recruits. … Two 11-win seasons, there's not too many football teams in the country that are saying that right now."
MSU (11-3) won the game when Georgia kicker Blair Walsh's 47-yard field-goal attempt in the third overtime was blocked by defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White.Moments earlier, Dan Conroy gave the Spartans the lead on a 28-yard yard field goal on MSU's third overtime possession. He also kicked a 35-yard field goal in the second overtime and the game-tying PAT to force overtime with 14 seconds remaining after Le'Veon Bell scored his second touchdown of the game on a 1-yard run."We knew going into the game that it wasn't going to be perfect," said Cousins, who completed 27 of 50 passes for 300 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. "Georgia has two first-team All-Americans, they have the third-best defense in the country, they have record-breakers on offense. We knew it wasn't going to be perfect. They're going to make plays. It was a matter of weathering that storm and being able to come back and not give up and we did that time and again. That's what I'm most proud of."
The Spartans got a break in the first overtime when Georgia opted to play conservative after intercepting Cousins on the first series. The Bulldogs ran one running play and then quarterback Aaron Murray centered the ball to set a potential game-winning kick by Walsh. But he missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt wide right."It just went a little bit to the right. I don't know what pulled it that way," said Walsh, who moved ahead of Billy Bennett on the SEC career scoring list with 412 points when his 47-yarder that gave Georgia a 30-27 lead in the second overtime. "I'd trade all the points I could to just have three points (at the end) for us. I mean that."
The Spartans fell behind 2-0 on their first offensive play, when Keshawn Martin was tackled in the end zone by Brandon Boykin at 12:07 of the first.The Bulldogs extended their lead with an 80-yard touchdown catch by Tavarres King with 3:06 left in the second quarter and went into halftime up 16-0 after a 92-yard punt return for a touchdown by Boykin with 1:39 left.
"They have one of the best defenses in the country and they still are after today," Cousins said. "But we found a way. It wasn't perfect, but we certainly showed character, and that's what I'm most proud of. We played with a great deal of maturity and toughness, and we weren't afraid. We didn't back down, and we found a way at the end that's what great teams do."
Bell scored on an 8-yard run in the third quarter to get things going for the Spartans, and Cousins completed the two-point conversion pass to Brian Linthicum, who finished with seven catches for 115 yards.Darqueze Dennard's 38-yard interception return for a touchdown put the Spartans down 16-14 after the two-point conversion attempt failed with 1:47 left in the third.After a 32-yard field goal by Georgia, the Spartans took a 20-19 lead on Cousins' 7-yard touchdown pass to Keith Nichol.The lead was short-lived, though, as Boykin scored for the third time, this time catching a 13-yard touchdown pass with 6:44 left.That would leave plenty of time for the Spartans, who started their drive on their own 15. Cousins hit B.J. Cunningham for a 22-yard gain and ran 20 yards two plays later to get to the Georgia 38.
Keshawn Martin appeared to score on an 11-yard catch, but replay showed he was down on the 1. Two plays later, Bell scored his second touchdown of the day.The Spartans' comeback overshadowed a standout performance by Georgia's Mr. Everything, 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 couldn't protect down the stretch.Boykin had 183 all-purpose yards, including four kickoff returns for 70 yards and 8 yards rushing on two carries. The senior said he'd trade of all his production if the Bulldogs had been able to finish off Michigan State.
"Of course I'm upset right now that we lost and I'll never get to play a college game again," Boykin said. "Without a doubt, I'd take away my performance if we can get a victory."Dantonio wanted hoping for one last thing as he thought about the end of this run for the senior class: "I would hope this win would help solidify a top-10 ranking in this year's final polls."