- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan State knew it was probably going to the Rose Bowl whether it won or lost in the Big Ten championship game. But all week long, the Spartans insisted they had no interest in backing their way into Pasadena.
After knocking off No. 2 Ohio State at Lucas Oil Stadium, Michigan State's players could hold their heads high as they clenched roses in their teeth. By building a 17-0 lead early and then mounting a comeback after blowing all of it, the Spartans did Saturday what no one else could do in the past two years: Beat Urban Meyer's Buckeyes.
As a result, Ohio State isn't going to the BCS title game, and the folks in East Lansing, Mich., now have some new friends in Auburn, Ala. Here's a quick look at how the No. 10 Spartans' 34-24 victory went down.
It was over when: Michigan State's Denicos Allen stopped Braxton Miller on a fourth-and-2 run from the Spartans' 39-yard line with 5 minutes, 41 seconds to go. Six plays later, Jeremy Langford broke free for a 26-yard touchdown run, giving Michigan State a 10-point lead with 2:16 left. Michigan State scored the game's first 17 points and the final 17.
Game ball goes to: Connor Cook. Michigan State's sophomore quarterback came into the game with a much lower profile than his Ohio State counterpart. But Cook showed that he's got a bright future, too, along with a poise beyond his years. The offense rested on his right arm most of the game as the Buckeyes shut down the running game for three quarters. Cook completed 10 of his first 13 passes and finished 24-of-40 for 304 yards and three touchdowns. His final score came on a throwback pass to wide-open tight end Josiah Price that gave the Spartans the lead for good.
Stat of the game: We wondered who would win the battle between the nation's top rushing defense and Ohio State's Big Ten-best running attack. The Buckeyes -- and their offensive line -- won that showdown handily, gaining 273 yards on 40 carries against a defense that entered giving up 64.8 yards per game on the ground. Miller and Carlos Hyde each ran for more than 100 yards, doubling the number of 100-yard rushers Michigan State had allowed all season. But the Spartans held Ohio State to just 25 rushing yards in the fourth quarter as they kept the Buckeyes scoreless for the final 14:24.
Unsung hero of the game: Darqueze Dennard came into the game with a huge reputation as a potential All-America cornerback and the leader of the Spartans' "No-Fly Zone" secondary. He backed it up with a couple of big-time pass breakups, including one in the end zone after he was beaten on a route by Devin Smith. Ohio State wasn't able to get much done on Dennard's side of the field.
What it means: Michigan State is going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988, and it will play Stanford in a battle of two of the hardest-hitting defenses in college football. The Spartans are 12-1, won all nine Big Ten games by at least 10 points and should finally get the respect they deserve. Coach Mark Dantonio got a program-defining victory after leading the team to double-digit victories in three of the past four years.
Ohio State will be bitterly disappointed about its missed chance to play Florida State for the national title, and the 24-game winning streak under Meyer is gone. The Big Ten's national title drought now will reach 12 years. All is not lost for the Buckeyes, however. They should still get chosen for an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, probably in either the Sugar Bowl or Orange Bowl.
5dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer