A depleted Michigan State squad gave it all they had, but in the end, they could not keep pace with an opportunistic Texas Tech offense that took advantage of Spartan mistakes and went on to a 41-31 win in the Alamo Bowl.
Sophomore quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions on the night and both proved costly. On MSU's first possession his pass intended for Blair White was picked off and Baron Batch ran it in from 3 yards out on Tech ensuing possession to give them a 7-0 lead.
Edwin Baker responded for State with a 46-yard touchdown run to tie the score at seven. Tech's Matt Williams nailed a 21-yard field goal to put the Raiders up 10-7.
After pinning State deep in their own zone, Brandon Denson was called for fair catch interferece on Aaron Bates punt setting up Tech at their own 47. MSU lost coverage on Austin Zouzalik for a 51-yard gain setting up first and goal at the MSU 2-yard line. Quarterback Taylor Potts hit Lyle Leong to put Tech up by 10.
But MSU responded when Cousins, scrambling from pressure hit Keshawn Martin on a 48-yard bomb to cut the lead to three. Brett Swenson's attempt to tie it one possession later was blocked. Williams who missed a 48 yard a possesion earlier, put Tech up by six at the half with a 38-yarder.
The third quarter belonged to MSU. Keith Nichol, behind center in a two-quarterback set, bounded in from seven yard out and suddenly MSU had the lead at 21-20. A rare mistake by Swenson, who kicked it out of bounds, set up the Red Raiders at their own forty-yard line, but MSU stuffed a fourth-and-one attempt.
But after going three-and-out, Tech's Potts hit Jacoby Franks for a 14-yard TD to retake the lead by six. MSU bounced right back with a 49 yard chunk play on a strike from Cousins to White that set them up in TT territory. Aaron Bates completed a 18-yard pass to Charlie Gantt on a fourth down fake punt. Martin operated out of the Wildcat and hit White for an 8-yard TD. to give MSU the one point lead.
Swenson added a 44-yarder giving MSU it's largest lead of the night, but TTU inserted backup Steven Sheffield and he quickly engineeredd a eight-play 77 yard drive in just 3:02 hitting Detron Lewis from 11-yards to retake the lead as Tech scored 14 unanswered points to salt the game away.
For MSU the bright spots were the play of Martin (four catches, 86 yards and a TD catch, 2-for-2 passing, 1 TD and six kick returns for 149 yards) Baker, who rushed 12 times for 97 yards. Greg Jones and sophomore Trenton Robinson had 13 tackles each.
All could return, but Jones, a junior will be tempted by the promise of being a NFL first round pick if he opts to come out.
MSU has most of their key personnel including starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, backs Caper and Baker, receiver Martin and safety Robinson all with a year of experience under their belts and will get an infusion of talent from the 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes.
2010 could be a good year for the Spartans, but a 6-7 finish in 2009 makes for a forgettable season.