Outback Bowl: A Spartan Saga

A month ago, Kirk Cousins stood on the sideline at Lucas Oil Stadium as Wisconsin went into the victory formation and sealed its Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl berth.

His chance to take the ball and lead the Spartans down the field to the win never came.

The postgame interview centered on how it felt to come so close, and not get the opportunity to win it at the end. Number 8 in green and white wanted the ball in his hands. Winners always do.

It was only fitting that his chance came, while a month late, it was better late than never.

With 1:55 left, Michigan State’s defense stood strong as it had all game and took the ball back for their offense. Back in the hands of the winningest quarterback in MSU history. Where else would you want it?

Cousins strapped on his helmet and jogged into the huddle. Captain Kirk commanding his forces one final time. He was not going to be denied. Not in his moment. This was his to own — to cement his legacy in more than rewriting the record book, this was about pride. Spartan pride.

With the precision of a surgeon, he methodically sliced his way through the Georgia defense that had him bottled up and locked down his offense for the first 30 minutes of the game.

Cousins worked his way and found his receivers. Keith Nichol over the middle for 15. B.J. Cunningham on a slant for seven. Cunningham down the sideline for 22. Le’Veon Bell in the flat for three. Four perfectly thrown passes.

When the coverage was strong, he pulled the ball down and ran for 20 yards, directing his  along the way and getting every yard he could and still getting out of bounds to stop the clock.

Back to Nichol for six down the sideline. Keshawn Martin over the middle for 11 to the Georgia one — 34 seconds remaining.

A Georgia penalty, a timeout, an incompletion and another Georgia penalty later, Bell punched it in for the score.

Add in a great hold by Brad Sonntag for the extra point, and the Spartans and Bulldogs headed to overtime.

Ten plays, 85 yards. 1:36. Pure mastery of the two-minute drill by the quarterback who led his team flawlessly with such precise execution.

Heading into overtime, his teammates jumped and chanted on the sideline … but not their poised leader. The work still had to be done. He stared ahead and focused on the task at hand — the win.

And after three stalemate overtime periods, this happened:

The smile broke. The relief of securing an elusive goal — a bowl win — set in.

The helmet wasn’t going back on. The smile wasn’t coming off. This time, there would be no postgame questions on what could have been. No comments on how things should have ended differently.

He had his final drive and he executed it. The ball was in his hands, and he knew just what to do with it.

Winners always do.

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Posted on January 3, 2012, in Football and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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