Stanford Football: Max Bullough

video

PASADENA, Calif. -- Michigan State rallied from an early 10-point deficit to dominate the final three quarters against Stanford in the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Here's a quick recap of the Spartans' victory.

It was over when: Middle linebacker Kyler Elsworth, replacing the suspended Max Bullough, stuffed Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt (along with help from Shilique Calhoun and others) on fourth and-1 with 1:34 left and the ball at Stanford's 34-yard line. Stanford had used its final timeout, so Michigan State ran out the clock.

Game ball goes to: MSU quarterback Connor Cook. He had several heart-stopping throws, including one of the worst pick-sixes you'll ever see in the second quarter. But Cook once again didn't let a mistake faze him, and he displayed his tremendous skill in attacking Stanford's secondary. He recorded his second consecutive career-high passing performance (332 yards) on his second mega stage, completing 22 of 36 attempts with two touchdowns. His first two career 300-yard passing performances come in the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl. Not too shabby.

Stat of the game: Stanford recorded a 43-yard pass to Michael Rector on the game's second play from scrimmage and a 47-yard Tyler Gaffney rush late in the first quarter. The Cardinal had a 51-yard pass play in the third quarter. Those three plays accounted for 141 of Stanford's 305 total yards. The Cardinal ran only nine plays for 23 yards in the second quarter, excluding a kneel-down on the final play of the half.

Stat of the game II: Michigan State became the first team to rally from a halftime deficit to win a Rose Bowl since the 2000 game, when Wisconsin erased a 9-3 Stanford lead and won 17-9 behind Ron Dayne.

What Stanford learned: The Cardinal still struggle to beat teams that can match them physically, especially up front. All those big linemen and creative formations didn't make much difference against a swarming Michigan State defense that surrendered only 11 first downs and 305 yards (mostly on three plays). Stanford learned that it wasn't a true national title contender, losing three games to teams that mirrored its style of play. And while David Shaw remains an elite coach, his conservative play calls seemed to cost his team down the stretch.

What Michigan State learned: The Spartans are an elite program led by an elite coach in Mark Dantonio and an elite staff. They have an elite quarterback in Cook. They can overcome the loss of an elite player in Bullough. Michigan State learned it can play on the biggest stages with the best teams in the country and beat them with power football. The Spartans never went off track, even after a shaky start, and made enough plays in all three phases to record one of the biggest wins in program history.
Why is Stanford going to best Michigan State in the Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio? Here are 10 reasons.

  1. Stanford has the better quarterback: Stanford QB Kevin Hogan is 15th in the nation in total QBR (80.2). Michigan State's Connor Cook is 59th (61.9). And Hogan put up those numbers against a much tougher schedule.
  2. [+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
    Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesMichigan State hasn't faced a pass rusher as talented or relentless as Stanford LB Trent Murphy.
  3. Michigan State hasn't faced a pass rusher like Trent Murphy: The Spartans only yielded 13 sacks this year, which ranked 11th in the nation. But Michigan State didn't face any pass rusher as good as Murphy -- none ranked in the nation's top 15. Murphy had 14 sacks on his own, which ranked second in the nation.
  4. Stanford has played in four consecutive BCS bowls: The Cardinal are accustomed to a big stage. This is their second consecutive Rose Bowl and fourth consecutive BCS bowl. Michigan State hasn't played in a BCS bowl game or a Rose Bowl in 26 years. Experience matters. Nerves certainly won't be an issue for Stanford.
  5. The Pac-12 is better than the Big Ten: The Pac-12 went 3-2 versus the Big Ten this year, and was widely viewed as -- at least -- the nation's second best conference behind the SEC. Playing a nine-game Pac-12 schedule means Stanford has been more battle tested against A-list foes.
  6. Michigan State doesn't have its top leader on defense: Michigan State might have the nation's best defense, and All-Big Ten linebacker Max Bullough is its unquestioned leader. But Bullough was suspended for undisclosed reasons and won't play in the Rose Bowl. That leaves a huge hole in the Spartans defense in terms of talent, experience and leadership.
  7. Michigan State hasn't faced an O-line as good as Stanford's: The Spartans own the nation's No. 1 rush defense, but it hasn't faced an offensive line as big and bad -- and NFL ready -- as Stanford's. Ohio State has a good offensive line, and it produced 273 rushing yards against the Spartans in the Big Ten championship game.
  8. The transitive property! Notre Dame beat Michigan State 17-13. Stanford beat Notre Dame 27-20. So Stanford beats Michigan State! While it should be noted that Notre Dame was at home and far more healthy against the Spartans than it was at Stanford, this is a 10-point list, and sometimes you cut corners.
  9. Shayne Skov will deliver an inspiring pre-game speech: Skov is a great player, but a nearly as important contribution to the Cardinal is his fiery leadership. He is the Cardinal's designated player for an emotional pregame speech. As a fifth-year senior, this will be his last. Count on it being highly motivating.
  10. David Shaw is an elite coach: There's a reason you keep hearing Shaw's name come up in discussions about coaching vacancies, whether at Texas or in the NFL. He's considered an elite coach who has yet to reach his ceiling. Michigan State's Mark Dantonio might well be headed in that same direction, but you'd have to give Shaw and Stanford the edge on the sidelines.
  11. The Big Ten doesn't win Rose Bowls: Since the 2000 season, Big Ten teams have gone 1-9 in the Rose Bowl. While there were a couple of guest appearances in the Pac-12's spot -- Texas, TCU -- the Big Ten's biggest problem is the Pac-12 -- Washington, USC, Oregon and Stanford. The Big Ten's last Rose Bowl win was Ohio State over Oregon following the 2009 season, and that required Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor playing the best game of his career.
LOS ANGELES -- The 100th edition of the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO is finally here, as No. 4 Michigan State (12-1) takes on No. 5 Stanford (11-2).

Let's dive in ...

WHO TO WATCH: Michigan State linebackers Kyler Elsworth and Darien Harris. The biggest personnel issue entering the game is how the Spartans replace All-Big Ten middle linebacker and co-captain Max Bullough, who was suspended last week and didn't travel with the team. Elsworth, a senior used mostly on special teams, likely will get the start, although Harris also will play. Bullough brilliantly handled the play calls and much of the communication on defense, so his leadership will be missed. Stanford presents a lot of different looks with its offensive line groupings, so Elsworth and Harris will need to make sure their teammates are in the right places. There are plenty of veteran, multiyear starters throughout Michigan State's defense who also need to step up in Bullough's absence.

WHAT TO WATCH: The quarterbacks. Both defenses are extremely sound and both teams love to run the ball, but quarterback play often makes the difference in a game that looks pretty close on paper. Stanford's Kevin Hogan has been here before, helping the Cardinal to a win in the 2013 Rose Bowl. He had some ups and downs this season but comes off of a strong performance (277 pass yards on just 12 completions, 1 TD) in the Pac-12 championship game against Arizona State. Michigan State's Connor Cook is a stranger to the Rose Bowl stage but looked comfortable in the Big Ten championship game against Ohio State, recording a career-high 304 pass yards and three touchdowns and winning MVP honors. Both defenses can take away the opposing run games, so which quarterback makes clutch throws and limits mistakes?

WHY TO WATCH: If you really need a reason, pick another sport. It's the 100th Rose Bowl featuring two top-five teams with similar hard-hitting styles, excellent coaches and tremendous defenses. Stanford entered the season with national championship aspirations and can reaffirm what might have been with a second consecutive Rose Bowl win in its fourth straight BCS bowl appearance. Michigan State makes its first trip to Pasadena in 26 years and carries the banner of a beleaguered Big Ten Conference that has dropped nine of the past 10 Rose Bowls. A victory would cap Michigan State's most successful season since the back-to-back national title teams in 1965-66. The Rose Bowl enters the playoff rotation next fall, so the traditional Pac-12 versus Big Ten matchup won't be guaranteed.

PREDICTION: Stanford 21, Michigan State 17. Stanford's BCS bowl experience pays off as the Cardinal limit mistakes and force some Michigan State turnovers to win a hard-hitting nail-biter.

Expect 100th Rose Bowl to be physical

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
8:00
PM ET
LOS ANGELES -- The word "physical" has been used 12,486,234 times by media, coaches and players during the buildup to the 100th Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO between Stanford and Michigan State.

The Spartans of the Big Ten play physical football. They run the ball and play tough defense. The Cardinal of the Pac-12 play physical football. They run the ball and play tough defense.

"We kind of look at Stanford as a spitting image of us," Michigan State All-American cornerback Darqueze Dennard said.

[+] EnlargeStanford
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsShayne Skov and Stanford face in some ways a mirror image in Michigan State.
Said Stanford linebacker A.J. Tarpley, "It's nice to have that smashmouth football team to play against. They're the bullies in their conference, too. We know it's going to be an old-school Rose Bowl where teams are going straight at each other. There's obviously going to be a little trickery, but there's not going to be any misconception in what the other team wants. Each of us is going to run at each other, and whoever is going to stop the other one first is the team that's going to win."

Michigan State arrives with what is arguably the nation's best defense, at least statistically. The Spartans are No. 1 in the nation in total and rushing defense, No. 2 in pass efficiency defense and No. 4 in scoring defense.

Stanford, playing against superior offenses, is No. 15 in total defense, No. 3 in rush defense, No. 10 in scoring defense and No. 47 in pass efficiency defense.

Offense? Stanford is better, averaging 33.2 points per game compared to 29.8 for the Spartans.

There is one common opponent in Notre Dame, but Michigan State's close loss on Sept. 21 on the road was against a healthy Fighting Irish, while Stanford's home win on Nov. 30 was not. Further, that game is where all the Michigan State players point when asked what was the launching point of their season.

The Spartans beat Iowa the next week, and quarterback Connor Cook was made the full-time, no-quick-hook-anymore starter. That ignited their regular season, one that was capped with an impressive win over unbeaten Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.

Stanford has more quality wins -- the Irish, Oregon, UCLA, Washington and twice over Arizona State -- but it also lost at Utah and at USC. Despite those losses, the Cardinal topped ESPN.com's "Championship Drive Rating," a metric that measures who had the most impressive season based on its schedule. Michigan State ranked fifth. Stanford's schedule was fourth toughest in the nation. The Spartans was 56th.

There also is a fly in the ointment for Michigan State: The suspension of All-Big Ten linebacker Max Bullough, a two-time team captain and the leader of the Spartans defense. You can expect the Cardinal to test his replacements, Kyler Elsworth and Darien Harris.

"[Bullough is] a smart player who kind of lines their defense up, makes checks when they need to make checks," Stanford fullback Ryan Hewitt said. "He runs their defense. He's the heart and soul of their defense. I think it'll be a tough loss for them."

It also hurts that he's a senior, missing out on the Spartans first Rose Bowl berth in 26 years.

Meanwhile, Stanford will be seeing the last from an outstanding class of seniors, one that has led the program to four consecutive BCS bowl games.

"This is really a senior-laden group," senior linebacker Shayne Skov said. "We really take it upon ourselves to leave this place with the right legacy. We want to make sure we leave the right message for guys that come after us."

That message, however, is the same for both teams and therefore at cross purposes.

"We expect the utmost physicality," Hewitt said. "We expect the most physical team we've played. They are arguably the most elite team we've played. We expect a physical bout. It's the Rose Bowl."

Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen put it even more simply. He said, "I feel like the toughest team is going to win."

Rose Bowl notes: Shaw says he's staying

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
4:00
PM ET

Those who know David Shaw well believe he might coach Stanford for the rest of his career. He played and graduated from Stanford. He loves coaching the program. His family loves the Bay Area. His parents live just down the road. He makes a pretty darn good living.

But his success at Stanford, which includes three consecutive BCS bowl games, including consecutive Pac-12 titles, makes him an attractive candidate for the coaching rumor mill, whether it's Texas or the NFL spots that have opened up.

Shaw again was asked about his potential interest during a news conference Monday before Wednesday's Rose Bowl game presented by VIZIO, and he reiterated his desire to stay at Stanford. He said he hasn't been contacted by anybody.

"I have no desires to pursue another job," Shaw said.

While the redundant questions can be annoying, Shaw admitted that the questions about big-time coaching vacancies isn't a bad thing for himself or his program. It means he is doing something that other folks wish he'd do for them.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
AP Photo/Matt YorkDavid Shaw admits he's flattered to be mentioned as a candidate for other big jobs, but he says he's perfectly content at Stanford.
"It's unbelievably flattering," he said. "I think it's really cool. I think honestly it continues to shed light on our program, so I don't mind that it keeps happening. It keeps eyes turning toward Stanford, which I think is really cool. I told our players, to be honest, it's a testament to what they've accomplished, it's a testament to what our seniors have helped build at Stanford, to win consistently, win the right way, produce high-character young men and have a football game that's exciting to watch. So I don't mind it."

Shaw added, "I have not and don't plan on interviewing with anybody."

Recalling Skov suspension: Michigan State will be without star linebacker Max Bullough, the mental and emotional leader of the Spartans' highly rated defense, because of a suspension for undisclosed reasons.

Shaw was asked if he'd ever been in a similar situation, suspending a star player. Shaw immediately recalled linebacker Shayne Skov's suspension for a DUI in February 2012. Skov was suspended from the team during the offseason and the 2012 opener against San Jose State.

"Being a head coach it's your responsibility, and actions like that as a head coach, honestly, even help you in your locker room because guys know where the line is and they know that nobody is bigger than the program," Shaw said. "I applaud coach [Mark] Dantonio for that because it doesn't happen everywhere, and there are a lot of places where you get a slap on the wrist and they bench you for a practice and then play you in the game."

Shaw said he thinks Skov's suspension ultimately was good for him.

"There's no question about it," Shaw said. "I think it set him on the path to where he is now as a person and as a player."

Been there done that?

As in many things, experience helps. But it's more about the week of preparation than game day, Shaw said.

"I think the only real advantage, if there is one, is during the week," he said. "Our guys understand the schedule and know the schedule, have been through the schedule. … But once we get to game day, Michigan State has played in big games, played in a big game against Michigan, Ohio State. They've been on that big stage. I don't think the game is going to be any different."

Shaw's favorite team? Shaw was asked which college football team he rooted for growing up.

"It's almost like a setup question that I had somebody ask me," he said.

Because Shaw's father, Willie, was a college and NFL coach, Shaw ended up rooting for several teams, but he said his first love was Stanford, where his dad coached from 1974-76 and 1989-91 during a 33-year career.

"Those are some of my earlier memories," said the 41-year-old Shaw.

Shaw also admitted that he, at various times, rooted for both Michigan and Michigan State, when his dad coached for the Detroit Lions, and Arizona State, when his dad coached the Sun Devils.

"I never had a pure allegiance to one university as far as college football goes, but the one that I always went back to and enjoyed watching when I was a kid was Stanford, and that was because of our history with the school," he said.
LOS ANGELES -- Michigan State's defense is preparing vigorously for Stanford's offense as well as for life without its leader, middle linebacker Max Bullough.

Despite Bullough's shocking suspension, the standards haven't changed for the "Spartan Dawgs," who, as linebacker Denicos Allen noted Sunday, want to show everyone why they're the nation's No. 1 defense.

[+] EnlargeMax Bullough
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsHow will Michigan State's defense adjust without Max Bullough?
But before the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, MSU's defenders might want to set aside some time to examine Stanford's defense, specifically the way the unit adjusted without one of its best players. The Cardinal lost defensive end Ben Gardner to a season-ending torn pectoral muscle in late October.

Like Bullough, Gardner is a captain and one of the defense's top performers, racking up 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and eight quarterback hits, the most on the team at the time. He's so good that he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors despite missing Stanford's final five games.

Twelve days after Gardner's injury, Stanford held Oregon's dynamic offense scoreless for three quarters in a 26-20 win. The Cardinal surrendered just 62 rush yards and 312 total yards and recorded three sacks.

Stanford's defensive statistics without Gardner weren't dramatically different than they were with Gardner. The Cardinal allowed less than 75 rush yards in four of the final five games and finished with an outstanding effort against Arizona State's explosive offense in the Pac-12 championship. Arizona State had just 14 points and 311 yards, well below its season averages (41.0 ppg, 460.8 ypg).

"You feel for your teammates, but at the same time, you have to keep your vision on what the team goal is," Stanford linebacker Shayne Skov said. "You recognize that, unfortunately, somebody is gone, is no longer an active participant, but you have to keep moving forward.

"Whenever you lose someone as talented and as important a leader and integrated into your team, as I'm sure Max was and Ben [are], you have to find ways to, not replace them, but work and make an adaptation."

The circumstances of the losses are different -- Gardner was injured and remains with his teammates for the Rose Bowl; Bullough was suspended right before the team left for California and will not attend the game. But the realities are the same: There's shock and disappointment, and then there's another tough game to play.

"I kept a coldblooded approach," Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy said, "and kept moving forward and knew there were still games to be played and work to be done. Then, at the senior banquet, [Gardner] spoke and got everyone choked up a little bit and then it was like, oh man.

"Other than that, I kept moving forward."

Stanford benefited from replacing Garnder with Henry Anderson, a senior who had earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2012. Anderson suffered a knee injury in September but returned for the Oregon showdown, Stanford's first game without Gardner.

Michigan State's Kyler Elsworth isn't as decorated as Anderson, but the fifth-year senior who could start in Bullough's place brings experience and familiarity to the role. He's not Bullough in terms of system knowledge and communication -- no one is -- but he understands the scheme and the personnel around him.

"We've won because of chemistry here," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said Sunday. "There's an opportunity for somebody else to lead."

Elsworth, primarily a special-teams player during his career, embraces that opportunity "ten-fold."

"[Stanford] lost a player, and that's an adverse situation, that's something you've got to overcome," Elsworth said. "Our team has been doing that for a while now."

He mentioned safety RJ Williamson stepping in for safety Isaiah Lewis because of injury and a targeting ejection against Northwestern, and the way the coaching staff handled Dantonio's health-related absence during the 2010 season.

"There's countless times where our team has rallied around everybody," Elsworth said, "stepped up and came into the game with the mind-set that, 'Hey, no matter what is thrown at us, we can handle it.'

"This is no different. It's another curveball. Guys have stepped up their leadership, I'm stepping up my leadership, and we're very prepared for this game."

Rose Bowl notes: MSU missing Bullough

December, 28, 2013
12/28/13
6:30
PM ET
LOS ANGELES -- When a team loses a three-year starter, a two-time All-Conference performer and a two-time team captain to a shocking suspension in advance of the Rose Bowl, as Michigan State did with linebacker Max Bullough, it matters. It matters big-time.

This is something that Michigan State and Stanford players agree on.

[+] EnlargeMax Bullough, Denicos Allen
Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports Michigan State's defense will have to find ways to replace the leadership of Max Bullough (40).
"You can tell he was a leader on defense by the way the team reacts to him," Cardinal fullback Ryan Hewitt said. "So you know they're going to be missing their leader, their smartest player on defense."

The Spartans led the nation in rushing and total defense, and Bullough was a big reason why. His 76 tackles and 9.5 tackles for a loss ranked third on the defense. His potential replacements, senior Kyler Elsworth and sophomore Darien Harris -- a starter hasn't been named -- combined for 17 tackles.

While the physical loss is big, it's perhaps more challenging to lose Bullough's smarts and leadership. Mental mistakes, even more than physical shortcomings, are often critical in defensive-minded, low-scoring games, as most expect the Rose Bowl to be.

"I think they'll probably miss his leadership," Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren said. "I feel like he was probably the quarterback of their huddle, and in addition they will miss some of those checks at the line of scrimmage."

And that could provide Stanford with the opportunity for an explosive play.

STANFORD STYLE: Bloomgren was asked about Stanford's style of play. In past years, Stanford players have talked about "class and cruelty." It appears they have a new colorful mantra.

"When I think about our offense," Bloomgren said. "I want it to be intellectual brutality."

In other words: It's about smart guys who run over their opponents.

Quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is not known for turning colorful phrases to the media, picked up this same theme without much prodding.

"I would say that no one can out-weigh our physicality, out-toughen us," he said. "That's our goal. We want teams to quit, we want them to tap out and say, 'If you do that one more time, I'm done.' That's our goal."

MOVING UP FROM THE IVY LEAGUE: One of the popular topics this week is Stanford's rise to national football power as the preeminent academic university playing AQ conference football. Defensive coordinator Derek Mason pointed out that the Cardinal's recruiting pool is about "one percent" of the AQ-conference capable high school football players.

But recruiting has gotten easier than it was during the early Jim Harbaugh years. Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Trent Murphy said he didn't know anything about Stanford when it first started recruiting him out of Mesa, Ariz.

"I couldn't tell you what division Stanford was in," he said. "I thought it was an Ivy League school and played Harvard in a smart school bowl every year. My perception was skewed until Jim Harbaugh showed up at my door with a big grin on his face and a hungry look in his eye and he said, 'Here is what we want to do and we want you to be a part of it.' And I was like, 'Okay!'"

GOAL LINE STAND? Stanford RB Tyler Gaffney has scored 18 of his 20 rushing touchdowns against eight or more defenders in the box, the most such touchdowns among AQ running backs. On average, 50 percent of rushing touchdowns are scored against defenses with eight or more defenders in the box.

Michigan State, meanwhile, has allowed just seven rushing touchdowns all year.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Michigan State and Stanford both rank in the top 10 in ESPN’s defensive efficiency ratings. Michigan State leads the FBS in yards allowed per game (247.8), rush yards allowed per game (80.5) and third-down defense (28 percent). Entering bowl season, Stanford ranks atop the Pac-12 and among the top 15 nationally in each of those categories.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Shaw Plans To Remain At Stanford
Adam Schefter has the latest on coach David Shaw, who plans to remain with Stanford despite major interest from the NFL.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video

PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12