Against Michigan State on Thursday, the Baylor offense showed plenty of the spark that powered it to No. 1 in the country this season.
But in the final minutes, it was the Spartans’ ability to stuff the Bears’ rushing attack and take advantage of a series of Baylor miscues that led to the second-biggest comeback in Cotton Bowl history.
Michigan State won 42-41, scoring with 17 seconds to go after trailing by 20 points at the start of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame beat Houston 35-34 in 1979 after trailing by 22.
Baylor led 41-21 and was cruising behind quarterback Bryce Petty, who set the Cotton Bowl single-game record with 550 yards passing.
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Then the Bears’ momentum slipped away, and the Spartans capitalized by holding Baylor to minus-20 yards rushing.
“We stopped the run, but they were able to throw the ball certainly,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “But offensively, [we] just kept playing, and it’s just sort of crazy.”
The first step toward the craziness began with 14:18 remaining .
Baylor kicker Chris Callahan missed on a 46-yard field goal try, giving Michigan State possession at its 29.
Five plays later, Spartans quarterback Connor Cook hit Josiah Price for an 8-yard touchdown to cut the Baylor lead to 41-28.
After recovering the ensuing onside kick, Michigan State nearly struck again when Cook hit Aaron Burbridge for a 39-yard pass to the Baylor 14. Cook’s next pass, though, was intercepted by Taylor Young, whose return for a touchdown was negated by an illegal block.
Baylor tried to run it, giving it to Shock Linwood on third-and-8, but he was stopped for a 2-yard gain. Petty then threw incomplete on fourth down, giving the ball back to the Spartans.
“Nobody has really stopped them,” Dantonio said. “The bottom line is how you win the football game, and it’s going to be by controlling the football, outscoring them at times and taking at least one part of their game away from them.”
The Spartans, still trailing by two touchdowns, went back to their balanced attack. Cook completed two passes to the Baylor 28, then Michigan State ran it the next six plays, the final attempt resulting in a 1-yard touchdown from Jeremy Langford.
At that point, the Spartans trailed 41-35 with 4:55 to go.
After a day with no success running the ball, Baylor resorted to what had been working. Petty completed two passes to the Michigan State 40, and Linwood ran for 3 yards, taking about one minute off the clock.
Baylor passed on four of the next six plays, one of which nearly went for a touchdown to Corey Coleman. Coleman, however, was flagged for a face mask penalty, giving Baylor a first down but backing the Bears from the 7-yard line to the 22.
A false start pushed the Bears to the 27, and a negative rushing play pushed them back to the 30. After another pass — a 3-yard gain by Antwan Goodley — Callahan lined up for a 43-yard field goal attempt.
And Michigan State blocked it, catching it at the 19-yard line and returning it to the Baylor 45.
“I came through on that, got my hand up right in the right place — thank God — and then it went right into [R.J. Williamson’s] hands,” Michigan State defensive end Marcus Rush said. “I don’t know how that happened.”
With less than a minute to go, Cook guided the Spartans on six straight passes. He converted on fourth-and-10 with a 17-yarder to Tony Lippett and threw the 10-yard game-winner to Keith Mumphery on third-and-goal.
“Every week, our goal is to make a team one-dimensional,” Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond said. “And we pride ourselves on stopping the run. And when we make a team one-dimensional, good things can happen for you.”
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760