(Thursday, January 1st)
Final Score: (16) Georgia 24, (19) Michigan State 12
Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Matthew Stafford threw for three touchdowns in the second half to carry the No. 16 Georgia Bulldogs to a 24-12 victory over the 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans in the Capital One Bowl.
Stafford completed 20-of-31 passes for 250 yards and threw an interception for Georgia (10-3), which came into the season as the top-ranked team in the country and dropped a heartbreaking 45-42 decision to rival Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale.
"The biggest thing was eliminating mistakes," Stafford said. "The whole first half, first drive of the second half, we were making foolish mistakes -- me not hitting guys, us not picking up blitzes, not finishing off drives."
Junior running back Knowshon Moreno logged 125 total yards to go with a receiving touchdown in possibly his last game as a Bulldog, while Michael Moore caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in the hard-fought win.
The Georgia defense held Michigan State (9-4) running back Javon Ringer to 47 yards on 20 carries. Ringer scored the Spartans' only TD, while Brian Hoyer tossed for 169 yards and a pick on 18-of-34 efficiency.
"I'm very proud of our football team, it didn't work out today but I thought we represented and had an outstanding week here," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. "The Capital One Bowl has been a tremendous experience. I'm not satisfied and I don't feel good about not winning the football game but I'm very proud of our football team their accomplishments and the way they've represented here, both on and off the field."
The Spartans, who netted 236 total yards, had not played since a 49-18 loss at the hands of Big Ten champion Penn State on November 22.
While the Georgia defense kept the Bulldogs within three at halftime, its offense was nearly flawless in the final 30 minutes.
MSU's Aaron Bates pinned the Bulldogs at their own four-yard line 5 1/2 minutes into the half. Stafford rebounded from a rough start to hit six consecutive receivers for 92 yards, including a strike to Moore down the middle of the field for a 35-yard touchdown and a 10-6 lead.
Michigan State quickly punted and Prince Miller returned the boot 38 yards to the MSU 36, as a personal foul penalty on the kicking team moved the ball to the 21. On the first play after the change of possession, Stafford froze the Spartans secondary with a play-action fake and went down the right sideline to Aron White for a TD just before the end of the third quarter.
The teams then exchanged punts and the Spartans made it a one-score game when Ringer capped a 10-play, 54-yard drive on a one-yard score with 8:50 remaining. Hoyer's two-point pass fell incomplete and MSU trailed 17-12.
Georgia continued to leave the game in Stafford's hands and the junior quarterback responded with a third-down conversion pass of four yards to Demiko Goodman down to the MSU 21.
On 3rd-and-10 from the same spot, Stafford lofted a beautiful spiral to the end zone for Moreno, who deftly got his left foot inbounds and over the front pylon on the right sideline for a 24-12 lead with 3:43 to play.
Reshad Jones capped Georgia's terrific defensive performance, tackling Mark Dell just before the first down marker on Michigan State's last chance to mount a comeback, and the Bulldog faithful went home with a victory.
Stafford completed his first three passes of the game and followed that up with an 11-yard rush. But a sack on 3rd-and-9 at the MSU 10 forced the Bulldogs to settle for a Blair Walsh 32-yard field goal 5 1/2 minutes in.
Kendell Davis-Clark picked off Stafford on Georgia's next touch and returned the ball 24 yards to the Bulldogs' 12. The Spartans couldn't penetrate the goal line and Brett Swenson tied things, 3-3, with a 20-yard boot.
The Bulldogs' defense again hung tough after A.J. Green fumbled in his own territory, forcing a Michigan State punt early in the second frame.
After Swenson missed a 53-yard field goal attempt midway through the stanza, the Spartans were again handed good field position after Georgia's Brian Mimbs failed to get a punt off at his own 39-yard line.
Two third-down conversions brought MSU into the red zone, though Hoyer was sacked by Jaruis Wynn on third down from the 11. Swenson's 32-yard field goal made it 6-3 two minutes before the break.
Georgia made its 12th consecutive bowl game and owns a 25-16-3 record in the postseason...MSU has a 7-12 record in bowl games...Georgia and Michigan State also met in the 1989 Gator Bowl with the Bulldogs coming out on top...Moreno had 62 yards on 23 carries to go with six catches for 63 yards...Georgia had 331 yards of offense...B.J. Cunningham led the Spartans with six catches for 52 yards...The Bulldogs' defense finished with six sacks...Ringer set MSU's single-season mark with 22 touchdowns.
01/01 22:26:56 ET