EAST LANSING — Most any coach tell you that one play never decides a game, but there’s no doubt that some plays prove bigger than others college football. That has certainly been the case for Michigan State, which was on both sides of big plays 2014 en route to 11 campaign that was accentuated by a stunning comeback the Spartans’ 42 Cotton Bowl win over Baylor. There were at least 13 pivotal fourth-quarter moments the Danny Ainge Jersey Cotton Bowl and if one were to look close enough they’d likely multiple occasions most every contest where a game could have turned. Some plays stand out more than others when reviewing Michigan State’s 2014 : MSU led Oregon 27 with 6 minutes left the third quarter when Mariota took a snap facing third-and-11 at the Ducks’ 41 yard-line.
The Spartans sent all three linebackers on a blitz out of a alignment, and all three had the opportunity to sack Mariota. But he side-stepped Darien, stepped out of Bullough’s tackle attempt and sped away from a lunging before shoveling a pass to for 17 yards. Five plays later, Oregon scored a touchdown, sparking a 28 game-ending run. The Spartans appeared on the verge of squandering a 27 lead before Waynes intercepted a Tommy Armstrong pass at the David Lee Jersey MSU 17-yard line with 30 seconds left. Waynes’ interception sealed a 27 victory which Michigan State held Nebraska to 47 yards rushing on 37 attempts after the Huskers entered the night No. 2 the nation with 354 yards rushing per game. Michigan State held a 38 lead entering the fourth quarter West Lafayette, Ind., but a Connor Cook interception and a failed fake punt brought the Boilermakers to the verge of a comeback. The Spartans were leading 38 when Purdue quarterback Appleby faced a third-and-8 from his own 20-yard line, a potential game-tying drive on the line. Instead, Shilque Calhoun and brought pressure, and Appleby forced a pass that intercepted and returned for a touchdown to clinch the victory. Cook is always on the lookout for slights, and the Wolverines didn’t make it hard for him Oct. 25 when they drove a tent spike into the Spartan Stadium turf shortly before kickoff.
Cook, who later said he was offended by the tent spike incident, tucked the football on the Spartans’ opening drive and sprinted for the end zone. At the 5-yard line, Cook lowered his shoulder and ran over Wolverines’ safety Delano Hill, setting the tone for a physically dominant MSU win. Michigan State had just taken a 28 lead over the eventual national champions with 3 left the second quarter the Nov. 8 meeting at Spartan Stadium — or it appeared. A pivotal yellow flag lay on the turf. All-American center Jack was called for holding, which negated Langford’s 11-yard TD run on a third-and-three. The next three plays proved pivotal: Cook threw incomplete on third-and-13, Geiger missed a 39-yard field goal, and the Buckeyes scored on a 79-yard slant pass on the first play of their ensuing drive to tie the game at 21 and flip the momentum. Shelton’s return gave Michigan State early momentum and provided a lift to the Spartans’ special teams units heading into the postseason. Was it Keith Mumphery’s go-ahead TD grab with 22 seconds left, or Tony Lippett’s fourth-down grab with 37 seconds left? Maybe Mumphery’s 50-yarder at the start of the fourth quarter that sparked the offense? Or maybe it was Marcus Rush’s field goal block, or RJ Williamson’s 36-yard return of the block? Lawrence ‘ sack the final seconds? Whichever New Year’s Day play at AT&T Stadium was your favorite, it’s safe to say Michigan State’s 42 victory — after trailing 41 entering the fourth quarter — go down as one of the Spartans’ greatest victories of all time.