The Five Greatest Spartan Bowl Games

On Friday, the Champs Sports Bowl will present Michigan State with one of the tougher matchups they've faced in post-season play: a talented, 10-3 Boston College team with a future NFL quarterback in Matt Ryan. Until then, the ghost of bowl games-past will relive the greatest moments in Michigan State bowl history.

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The Champs Sports Bowl will present Michigan State with one of the tougher matchups they've faced in post-season play: a talented, 10-3 Boston College team with a future NFL quarterback in Matt Ryan.

How will the game in Orlando, this Friday, compare to Spartan achievements in the past? Only time will tell. Until then, the ghost of bowl-games-past will relive the greatest moments in Michigan State bowl history.

5) 1966 Rose Bowl - Michigan State 12 – UCLA 14

Sure the Spartans came up on the wrong side of the win column, but winning a national championship helped the loss go down easier. An undefeated Spartan squad, coached by Duffy Daugherty and led on the field by Bubba Smith and a suffocating defense, traveled to Pasadena for the third time in 12 years to face UCLA (also for a third time.)

The Spartans attempted a late game comeback, trailing by 14. However, UCLA stopped MSU twice in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-ones and the Spartan rally fell short with two failed two-point conversions.

4) 1954 Rose Bowl - Michigan State 28 – UCLA 20

In their first Rose Bowl appearance, Michigan State trailed UCLA 14-0 before mounting a furious comeback. State scored 21 unanswered points before UCLA pulled to within 21-20. But game MVP Bill Wilson's punt return for touchdown with 4 minutes remaining sealed the Spartan's first taste of Rose Bowl success.

3) 1956 Rose Bowl - Michigan State 17 – UCLA 14

A game that came down to a last-second field goal gave the Spartans their second Rose Bowl win over UCLA in as many years. The Spartan running game set records that day for rushing yards (251) and rushing first downs (16) and the defense held UCLA to under 200 yards.

The game MVP, Michigan State halfback Walter Kowalczyk, racked up 88 rushing yards, highlighted by a 30-yard run setting up a touchdown in the second quarter. He was one of three Spartans with over 50 yards rushing on the afternoon.

On MSU's final drive, UCLA committed three consecutive penalties, allowing the Spartans to start their game-winning drive at UCLA's 19. Dave Kaiser nailed a 41-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining to ice a thrilling game.

2) 2000 Citrus Bowl - Michigan State 37 – Florida 34

In the wake of Nick Saban's departure, interim (and future head) coach Bobby Williams led a talented Spartan squad to a surprising victory over Florida in the Citrus Bowl.

That squad set two team records for bowl games (25 first downs and 5 sacks), and a number of Spartans set team bowl records individually, including: Bill Burke for touchdown passes (3); Herb Haygood for kickoff return yards (132); Paul Edinger for field goals made (3); Plaxico Burress for total receptions (13) as well as touchdown catches (3); and Julian Peterson for sacks (3 for 30 yards) and tackles for loss (5 for 32 yards.)

Michigan State jumped out to a 17-7 lead, thanks largely to a 37-yard TD reception by Burress and a fumble recovery for TD by T.J. Turner. However, the Gators fought back for a 21-20 halftime lead, setting the stage for an exciting second half. Burress hauled in two more TD receptions and the Spartans gave Williams a memorable first victory as Michigan State head coach.

1) 1988 Rose Bowl - Michigan State 20 – USC 17

It was their first trip back to sunny California in over 20 years, and 20 years later Michigan State has not yet made it back. That year, though, the Spartans made sure they didn't leave without a Rose Bowl triumph for beloved head coach George Perles.

The gritty head coach preached a hard nosed, throwback philosophy that essentially called for Lorenzo White or Blake Ezor to run left, run right or run up the middle and to have quarterback Bobby McAllister throw to Andre Rison only when necessary.

Led by White, who racked up 113 yards on the ground, Michigan State hung with a talented Southern California squad led by future Detroit Lion Rodney Pete despite being out gained on offense 410 yards to 276. However, an opportunistic green-and-white defense, which finished the day with five turnovers, helped to squeak out a victory.

Linebacker Percy Snow, the game MVP who would go on to win the Butkus Award in 1989, smashed cardinal-and-gold shirts all afternoon, racking up an MSU bowl record 17 tackles.

Late in the game, Pete drove the Trojans down the field, looking for a touchdown to win or a field goal to tie from the Michigan State 30-yard line. But Pete fumbled (the fourth Trojan turnover on the afternoon) on the next play, all but cinching the game for Michigan State and a happy George Perles.

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