It may not have been pretty at times, but when it mattered the most, Connor Cook and the Michigan State Spartans offense rose to the occasion and enforced their will on the Iowa Hawkeyes with a final fourth quarter drive that lasted over nine minutes and 22 plays before freshman L.J. Scott forced his way into the end zone for the game winning score.
Cook might have been named game MVP, but the performance of Scott who would carry 22 times for 77-yards and one touchdown is the play Spartan fans will remember most when they look back at this game.
The Spartans struck first in the first quarter when Michael Geiger hit a 23-yard field goal with 11:11 remaining in the quarter. But the Hawkeyes came to battle until the end and with 5:08 left in the first quarter, Marshall Koehn hit a 24-yard field goal to tie the game at three each.
The second quarter saw the Hawkeyes take their first lead of the game when Koehn hit from 43-yards out putting the Hawkeyes up 6-3.
The Spartans looked to match Iowa but saw Geiger miss two 52-yard field goal attempts before the quarter ended.
The Hawkeyes went into the locker room with a 6-3 lead with the Spartans offense getting yards but sputtering to put points on the board.
Geiger would get another chance in the third quarter when he hit from 29-yards out with 4:23 left in the quarter and again from 47-yards out to put the Spartans up 9-6 with just 57-seconds left in the quarter.
The game was looking like a classic Iowa - Michigan State battle from year’s past and lived up to the billing when Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard hit Tevaun Smith for an 85-yard touchdown strike giving Iowa a 13-9 lead they felt they could hold until the end of the game.
The Spartans saw their first chance to answer fail giving the Hawkeyes the ball with 12:14 left in the game. But the defense stepped up forcing Iowa to punt the ball away and setting up the drive Spartan Nation will be talking about for years to come.
With 9:31 left in the game and starting on their own 18-yard line, Cook, Scott and the Spartans offensive line showed their never say die attitude going 82-yards with a play overturned on an Aaron Burbridge catch, a fourth down option play that was reviewed to confirm it was a first down and Scott rush 14 times scoring with 27-seconds left on the clock and the Spartans one defensive stand away from being crowned Big Ten Champions.
Scott explained the final drive.
“We knew we had to execute each play,” said Scott. “You know, we knew each play was big and that we had to stay with the ball. I was just trying to make a big play for my brothers. We knew what we had at stake.”
After the game Mark Dantonio spoke about the final runs of Cook and Scott.
“We weren’t getting big runs,” stressed Dantonio. “They were four, five, three, that type of thing. I sort of felt like L.J. Scott was in rhythm. He found a crease, he’d get north. Like I said, we had a couple of big plays from our quarterback, Connor, throwing the football, etcetera, running with it.”
While many felt a Spartans win would place them in the College Football Playoffs, Dantonio was quick to remind everyone they’ve not been selected yet.
“We’re not in yet,” he said. “So we’re just enjoying the night as Big Ten Champions. I would expect it just gives us another thing to maybe celebrate tomorrow. That’s the way I’m looking at it.”
Michigan State waits until midday Sunday to learn where they’ll be headed in the postseason.