Spartans’ Rose Bowl hopes shaky but intact

At the end of a wild weekend for Michigan State, the Spartans

are right back where they started.

Trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter, banged-up

quarterback Kirk Cousins led Michigan State on a memorable rally in

its home finale Saturday. His 3-yard touchdown run with 4:32 left

gave his team a 35-31 victory over Purdue – but the good news ended

there for the Spartans.

Ohio State rallied to beat Iowa later on, meaning Michigan State

(10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) remains in a three-way tie atop the conference

with the Buckeyes and Wisconsin. The Spartans would win a two-way

tiebreaker with Wisconsin, but if Ohio State is also involved, the

tie would be broken by the BCS rankings. In the new BCS standings

Sunday, Wisconsin was No. 7, Ohio State was No. 8 and Michigan

State was No. 10.

In The Associated Press poll, the Spartans stayed at No. 11.

They play at Penn State next weekend.

”We’ve talked a lot about leaving a legacy here in our time and

we want to leave something that people will remember,” Cousins

said. ”We have a chance to do that next weekend.”

The Big Ten tiebreakers nearly became an afterthought for

Michigan State when its trailed 28-13 in the fourth quarter. The

Spartans still trailed by two scores at 31-20 after Purdue’s Carson

Wiggs made a 52-yard field goal, but Cousins threw a 9-yard

touchdown pass to Mark Dell with 6:54 remaining, and a 2-point

conversion made it 31-28.

With momentum shifting, Denicos Allen came charging in from the

right side and blocked a punt, giving Michigan State the ball

inside the 5 and setting up Cousins’ winning touchdown.

It was the fourth game-turning special teams play of the season

for Michigan State. The Spartans beat Notre Dame with a fake field

goal in overtime, returned a punt for a touchdown in a big win over

Wisconsin and ran a fake punt while rallying to beat


”We put a premium on special teams,” coach Mark Dantonio said.

”Every aspect of special teams will allow you to win or lose a

football game. That is what we talk about and our players believe


Cousins missed a series in the first half after apparently

hurting his non-throwing shoulder. He said after the game he’s been

fighting shoulder and ankle injuries but was determined to tough it


”With a banged-up ankle, you could see the determination (Kirk)

had, even when he went in for the TD,” Dell said.

A win at Penn State would give the Spartans at least a share of

the Big Ten title for the first time since 1990.

”We’re playing for a championship next Saturday,” Cousins

said. ”And I’ll be ready to go. We’ll have six weeks off after


Michigan State hasn’t won at Penn State since 1965, dropping all

eight meetings there since the Nittany Lions joined the Big


Michigan State was favored by around three touchdowns for its

home finale against Purdue, which has now lost five straight and

cannot become bowl eligible. But the Spartans heard some boos from

the crowd after falling behind.

”It’s not a perfect world out there – just like some guy can be

sitting there booing, and the next minute he can be cheering,”

Dantonio said. ”But that’s why you buy a ticket. If I could’ve

booed, I would’ve too.”

Cousins heard the boos as well, and he responded by leading his

team to its 10th win of the season, only the third time Michigan

State has won that many.

”This is Division I football,” Cousins said. ”It’s a big

business with big expectations.”

Now the Spartans face one more huge challenge. They’ll play Penn

State at the same time Michigan faces Ohio State, knowing if the

rival Wolverines pull off the upset, Michigan State controls its

own destiny in the Rose Bowl race.

”Defensively we gave up some plays, but somehow, some way, we

got back into it,” Dantonio said. ”All I can tell you is that we

are a 10-win football team.”