PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Stanford's Kevin Danser knelt on one knee and hardly moved on the sideline as Michigan State celebrated its Rose Bowl victory and his Cardinal teammates made their way to the locker room.
The fifth-year senior guard, part of a group of players who have helped transform Stanford into a national powerhouse, wasn't quite ready to leave it all behind.
"I just wanted to take it all in one last time," Danser said, his eyes red and one last stray tear making its way toward the side of his nose.
No. 5 Stanford came up short of a second consecutive Rose Bowl victory, losing 24-20 to No. 4 Michigan State on Wednesday.
"This game isn't the summary of these guys' career," Danser said. "We've achieved so much. We changed the program."
The Cardinal (11-3) have racked up 46 victories over the last four years and been to four straight BCS games, playing a pure-power style that often wears opponents down.
They couldn't do that against Michigan State (13-1). The Cardinal jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter with the help of two long plays, but managed just 159 yards over the last three quarters as the Spartans won the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988.
"It's like we just won the Super Bowl,' defensive end Shilique Calhoun said.
Tyler Gaffney ran for 91 yards and a touchdown for the Cardinal and Kevin Anderson returned an interception 40 yards for a score in the second quarter to make it 17-7.
And that was pretty much it for Stanford.
With one last chance to drive for the win, the Cardinal faced fourth-and-1 from their 34 with 1:46 left. Of course, they tried to get it with brute force, running a fullback dive with Ryan Hewitt. But Kyler Elsworth and Calhoun blew it up for Michigan State and all the Spartans had to do from there was take a knee and celebrate with thousands of green clad fans who packed the Rose Bowl and lingered long after the game was over.
"It looked like we were going to get the push, and then we got stopped up front," Stanford coach David Shaw said of the Cardinal's final play.
Connor Cook threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns against Stanford, despite facing one of the best pass rushing teams in the nation.
"He's got a lot of poise, especially in the pocket he's able to extend plays and find open guys," said linebacker Shayne Skov, another of those fifth-year seniors who leave the Farm with a 54-13 record.