PASADENA -- Michigan State's defense lived up to its billing as the nation's best defense Wednesday in the Rose Bowl.
Stanford couldn't match the lofty standard.
"Everything we prepared for the past two weeks is exactly what they did,'' Cardinal safety Ed Reynolds said after the 24-20 loss.
"Like our offense, they try to establish the run. And we did a good job against it. The only thing was that in the back end'' — the secondary — "we didn't do well. The explosive plays hurt us.''
Michigan State had seven plays of 20 yards or more, including two that changed momentum:
A 37-yard pass from quarterback Connor Cook to receiver Bennie Fowler set up a touchdown at the end of the first half.
A 25-yard touchdown strike from Cook to Tony Lippett gave MSU the lead early in the fourth quarter.
"They took advantage of their opportunities,'' Reynolds said.
Nickel back Usua Amanam, of Bellarmine College Prep, blitzed off the left edge on second-and-six late in the second quarter. Instead of taking a sack or throwing the ball away, Cook forced a screen pass that went right to Cardinal linebacker Kevin Anderson.
Anderson, who attended Palo Alto High School, raced 40 yards for the Pick 6.
"I heard the crowd yelling and saw Kevin with the ball,'' said Amanan, who made the game-saving interception in the Rose Bowl last year.
"My instinct was to block the first green jersey I saw, but that was the quarterback and he was on the ground.
"I was glad to see Kevin make the play, after all the hard work he has put in.''
The play was also provided Anderson with a bit of redemption. He dropped an interception earlier in the quarter and Michigan State eventually scored on the drive.
Guard David Yankey, a senior who is eligible for another season, is expected to turn pro.
Reynolds, a junior, could follow Yankey into the draft.
"I haven't thought about that yet,'' he said.
End Henry Anderson, linebacker A.J. Tarpley and right tackle Cameron Fleming also requested feedback from the NFL Draft advisory board.
The deadline to declare is Jan. 15.
Montgomery will have an MRI to determine the extent of the damage.
"It didn't look like there was a lot of ligament damage,'' coach David Shaw said. "But there was enough for us not to put him back in. We'll see what it's like in the next week or so.''