PASADENA, Calif. -- Michigan State took control with its rugged defense and beat Stanford 24-20 Wednesday in the 100th Rose Bowl.
The Spartans broke a fourth-quarter tie on a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Connor Cook to wide receiver Tony Lippett.
Stanford pulled within four points on Jordan Williamson's 39-yard field goal with 4:15 to play. The Cardinal's last chance ended when fullback Ryan Hewitt was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Stanford 34-yard line with 1:43 remaining.
Fourth-ranked Michigan State, a touchdown underdog, held fifth-ranked Stanford to 159 yards the final three quarters, 305 yards in all.
The Spartans came back from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit and finished the reason 13-2, the only defeat by four points against Notre Dame. Stanford finished 11-3.
Asked what he liked most about the game, Michigan State's seventh-year coach Mark Dantonio all but yelled out, "Completion."
Cook, completing 22 of 36 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, was selected the offensive player of the game. Kyler Elsworth, who replaced the suspended Max Bullough at linebacker and made a key stop on fourth-and-1 with 1:23 remaining, was chosen the game's top defensive player.
"We just knew this was a special team," said Dantonio, who agreed to a new contract with Michigan State before the game. "Thirteen-and-one, can't get much better than that."
Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney netted 91 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan finished 10-for-18 for 143 yards with one interception.
Spartans running back Jeremy Langford carried the ball 23 times for 84 yards and a touchdown.
The game featured two teams noted for their defense, but the first half included enough offense to make things lively.
Although Stanford coach David Shaw said previously, "We run the ball; that's who we are, that's what we do," on the game's second offensive play, Hogan hit wide receiver Michael Rector on a 43-yard pass that set up the Cardinal's first touchdown.
Stanford made it 10-0 before the end of the first quarter, Michigan State's biggest deficit of the season. The Spartans, aided by a pass-interference penalty in the end zone, got a 2-yard touchdown carry from Langford early in the second quarter.
When Cook, under pressure and backpedaling, unwisely tossed up a desperation pass that was intercepted by linebacker Kevin Anderson and returned 40 yards for a touchdown, Stanford led 17-7 with two minutes left in the half.
Cook kept his cool, and he drove the Spartans 75 yards, the key play a 37-yard pass to wide receiver Bennie Fowler (two catches, 97 yards). Michigan State pulled with 17-14 on Cook's 2-yard throw to running back Trevon Pendleton 28 seconds before halftime.
NOTES: This was the 22nd Rose Bowl in which both teams were ranked in the top five nationally. ... Vin Scully, the Los Angeles Dodgers' announcer since 1950, was Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade and was introduced on the field before the game. He is 86. ... The Los Angeles Times pointed out three of the southern California's biggest sports heroes, Magic Johnson, Kirk Gibson and Steve Garvey, attended Michigan State. ... Three horse races -- the Belmont Stakes (145 runnings), Kentucky Derby (139) and Preakness Stakes (138) -- and baseball's World Series (109) are the only American sporting events older than the Rose Bowl.