Ryan Hewitt, Kyler Elsworth, Darien Harris

Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt (85) is stopped short of a first down by Michigan State linebackers Kyler Elsworth (41) and Darien Harris (45) on a key fourth-quarter play that helped the Spartans seal a 24-20 victory in the 100th Rose Bowl game on Wednesday in Pasadena. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / January 1, 2014)

Michigan State has defeated Stanford, 24-20, in the 100th Rose Bowl after the kind of defensive stand -- and offensive play-calling -- that might have been expected.

The game was decided on this play: Stanford has the ball on a fourth-and-one play at its own 34 with less than two minutes to play.

The Cardinal used its final timeout, presumably to decide whether they would hand the ball off to the left of center or right of center.

Then Michigan State used a timeout, apparently to talk about whether Stanford would run to the left of center or the right of center.


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Stanford came out in a fullhouse backfield -- the Cardinal call it their "elephant" set -- and handed the ball to Ryan Hewitt, who was carrying the ball for the first time.

He went nowhere.

It was one of many questionable play calls by Stanford in the second half.

The tackle was made by Kyler Elsworth, the fifth-year senior linebacker -- and a former walk-on -- who started the game because star linebacker Max Bullough was benched for the game after violating an undisclosed team rule.

With 1 minute 43 seconds left, No. 4 Michigan State ran out the clock for its 13th win in 14 games this season.

Fifth-ranked Stanford dropped to 11-3.

A crowd of 95,173 enjoyed mid-70s temperatures, a cloudless sky and the type of game many predicted.

It was a test of wills between Stanford's bone-crunching running game against a top-rated Michigan State defense.

The defense won.

Stanford's Tyler Gaffney ran for 91 hard-earned yards in 24 carries. But take away a 47-yard gain early in the game and he wasn't much of a factor. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan passed for 143 yards and ran for 41.

The game's top player on offense was Michigan State's Connor Cook. The redshirt sophomore completed 22 of 36 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. And while he was productive, he was also lucky. He threw at least three other passes that should have been intercepted.

Jeremy Langford led the Spartans' running attack, gaining 84 yards and scoring a touchdown in 23 carries.

Here's a recap of the game:

Michigan State 24, Stanford 20 (4:15 left in fourth quarter)

Stanford has cut into Michigan State's lead, but not the way it wanted.

Jordan Williamson kicked a 39-yard field goal one play after a Stanford first down was nullified on a penalty.