Big Ten got a title game up to its billing

Michigan State-Ohio State everything it was thought to be and then some as the Spartans make a statement in taking the conference title.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Away from the hugs and high-fiving, the roses and photos, Fou Fonoti knelt in disbelief.

As Michigan State's jubilant celebration carried on, the senior offensive tackle remained down on a knee, his eyes locked on the turf. Later, as coach Mark Dantonio hoisted the Stagg Trophy in the air, Fonoti stood alone, twenty-five yards away from the stage.

Unbelievable was the only word he said, murmuring it repeatedly to himself.

It was a stunning scene on both sidelines, but the scoreboard proved the sight to be true. Michigan State 34, Ohio State 24. Down went the nation's longest winning streak, the flawless run of Urban Meyer, and a chance for a championship. It was an outcome that shook the world of college football.

"It's going to haunt all of us I imagine for a little while," Meyer said. "But that's part of the game."

This is what Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany envisioned when the conference first formed a championship game model. Two teams battling for BCS stakes, a sold-out stadium, and the eyes of the nation on the Big Ten. The night lived up to its promise.

The upstart Spartans scored the game's first 17 points, silencing the legions of Buckeye fans. Ohio State stormed back with 24 unanswered points and settled down the Spartan sidelines. But in the end, it was Michigan State which made the plays in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Langford's 26-yard touchdown run, breaking through Buckeye defenders, sealed the program's first Rose Bowl appearance in 25 years.

"We did it," said senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard. "We believed in each other."

Players, coaches and family members gathered on the field for the raucous celebration. Roses were passed out to everyone in Spartan green.

"We're going to live this one for a while," Dantonio said.

Dantonio's Spartans played in the inaugural Big Ten Championship, and it was a different postgame sight. Michigan State lost a fourth-quarter lead and it was Wisconsin doing the celebrating.

Still, the stakes weren't quite what they were on Saturday night. A program on the rise wasn't quite ready for its moment with the roses.

This season was different. The Spartans overcame a September loss to Notre Dame and ran the Big Ten table. They got better and better as the year progressed. While many believed Ohio State was the Big Ten's best, Michigan State proved otherwise.

A game filled with anticipation lived up to its billing. The conference's clear-cut top teams fighting for the crown. Down went one program while another continued its rise.

"I'm just so happy for our football team, our fans and everybody that surrounds the program," said a drained Dantonio in his closing comments of the postgame press conference.

College football delivered a one to remember on Saturday night. The story can be best summed up by a 300-pound tackle left without words. Well, except one.


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