TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Buffalo WIld Wings Bowl wasn't much fun to watch. That is, until the last minute of the third quarter and the fourth quarter. Michigan State senior Dan Conroy drilled a 47-yard field goal right down the middle of the uprights with 1:01 left in the game, and the Spartans defense held on for a 17-16 win over TCU Saturday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
Those covering the game probably thought the free chicken wings in the press box would be the highlight of the night after TCU took a 13-0 lead into halftime and was dominant on defense. But the Horned Frogs ran out of steam late in the third quarter as Spartans running back Le'Veon Bell battered the Frogs for 145 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown, amassing 107 of those yards in the second half.
For almost 53 minutes, it wasn't Michigan State's night. But a muffed punt deep in TCU territory opened the door for the Spartans to punch in Bell's touchdown, a four-yard run with seven minutes left to play.
The gaffe and score negated an otherwise quite admirable defensive performance by the Horned Frogs, though they were able to respond after going down by one. Jaden Oberkrom made a 53-yard field goal with 2:42 to play to give TCU a 16-14 lead.
But the Spartans had found something they could exploit on offense, and they managed to put together a drive that resulted in Conroy's winner.
"I just went out there and let God do the rest," Conroy said. "When you go out there, you just have to stay relaxed and have confidence in yourself."
The Spartans could have folded after being down at halftime. Conroy himself reflected on missed chances he'd had earlier in the season to help his team. But Michigan State got tougher on defense and found some rhythm on offense.
Defensive end William Gholston was named the game's most valuable defensive player with nine total tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble. He and Bell could declare themselves draft eligible as juniors.
Oberkrom made a total of three field goals, also from 47 and 31 yards, and the Frogs held the Spartans to only 76 total yards in the first half.
TCU's defense forced four three-and-outs in the first half, frustrating the majority of the 44,617 fans in attendance, the biggest chunk of which were rooting for the Spartans of the Big Ten. But those fans were singing at the end, as State finally got its first close-game in since the first game of the season. It had lost five games by 13 points combined.
It looked like it would be a long night for Michigan State when, with nowhere to run on a first-down play deep in its own territory midway through the second quarter, Bell tried an ill-fated backward pass to quarterback Andrew Maxwell. The TCU defense swarmed Maxwell, forcing him to throw the ball away in haste and prevent certain disaster.
The Spartans tried another trick play with Bell late in the third quarter, and this time it worked. After several consecutive play calls for him to run the ball, Bell completed a 29-yard pass to fullback TyQuan Hammock. It gave Bell more passing yards than Maxwell for the moment.
Maxwell didn't finish the drive at quarterback. Backup QB Connor Cook threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Burbridge with 34 seconds left in the third quarter to make the score 13-7 for TCU. It was the Spartans' longest scoring drive of the season and longest in the school's bowl history, 23 bowl games.
Trevone Boykin passed for 201 yards, 120 on two long plays in the first half, for TCU. He was also the Frogs' leading rusher with 37 yards.