Connor Cook and Michigan State finished off their season with a three-touchdown comeback in the fourth quarter against playoff-snubbed Baylor. The Spartans (11-2) whose only two losses came against playoff teams, rallied to win the Cotton Bowl the lead-in game on New Year’s Day to the two national semifinals that the two-time Big 12 champion Bears (11-2) hoped to be a part of instead.
“For us to win in such an emotional and dramatic fashion like you just saw out there, really just I think with all the guys coming back, all the juniors, really just makes us feel good and brings us closer together,” Cook said.
Baylor finished fifth in the final College Football Playoff rankings, a spot ahead of TCU, the team the Bears shared the Big 12 title with despite beating the Frogs, 61-58, in October. TCU won its bowl game handily, beating Mississippi, 42-3, in the Peach Bowl on Wednesday.
For the second year in a row, Baylor season ends with a loss despite winning their conference and having one of the most successful seasons in the programs history.
“This definitely hurts worse than last year,” Baylor receiver Corey Coleman said.
Baylor senior quarterback Bryce Petty completed 36 of 51 passes for a Cotton Bowl-record 550 yards and three touchdowns, two to the speedy freshman K.D. Cannon and the other to the 390-pound backup guard LaQuan McGowan, which put Baylor ahead, 41-21, late in the third quarter. Petty was poised to be the game’s MVP and end his stellar career on a resounding high note.
Instead, Petty took two sacks before Michigan State’s before Riley Bullough’s clinching interception on the final pass of his Baylor career. As the Michigan State sideline celebration leaked onto the field, Petty crouched at the four-yard line with his head hung, staring at the turf.
“A loss is a loss. They all suck,”Petty said. “It sucks not to finish and again, that’s on the players not the coaches. As far as the national scale, believe it or not, whether y’all like it or not, Baylor’s going to be in the top.”
The two teams combined for Cotton Bowl records in points scored and total yards with 1,135. The Spartans win their fourth consecutive bowl in a row and are only the second Big 10 team to win the Cotton Bowl.
Michigan State ran the ball very effectively, getting 162 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries from Jeremy Langford. While Baylor threw at will resulting in rising star Cannon grabbing eight passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, and Coleman adding 150 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions.
Despite the gaudy stats and big accomplishments, this Baylor season will always be remember for what could have been.
“Let some things get away from us. It’s, quite honestly, an embarrassment to me as a coach,” said Baylor head coach Art Briles. “I feel bad for our players. I feel bad for our football team. And I feel bad for our university.”
Kendrick Johnson writes for a daily newspaper and is an independent print journalist and sports television reporter who has covered the NBA Finals, NFL, NCAA football, MLB, NHL, championship boxing and UFC Fights. He’s done numerous one on one interviews with some of the biggest names and personalities in sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kendrickjohnso