EL PASO, DEC. 31 -- Michigan State abandoned its potent ground attack and relied on big plays by receiver Courtney Hawkins as it defeated Southern California, 17-16, today in the John Hancock Bowl.
Hawkins caught six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, and the Spartans (8-3-1) capitalized on Southern Cal turnovers for their third victory over the Trojans (8-4-1) in three years.
Southern Cal lost even though it stopped Michigan State running backs Tico Duckett and Hyland Hickson. Duckett, who gained 1,376 yards during the regular season and was voted the Big Ten offensive player of the year, was held to just 18 yards, four in the second half. Hickson gained just 68 yards with one touchdown.
The game got physical and Eric Moten, Michigan State's all-Big Ten offensive lineman, was ejected early in the second quarter for deliberately pushing a Southern Cal defender after play had stopped.
The Spartans took a 17-10 lead in the third quarter before Southern Cal closed within a point on two field goals by Quin Rodriguez, the last with 3:07 left.
Michigan State then ran out the clock, converting a third-down play with 1:04 remaining.
In a matchup of conferences usually reserved for the Rose Bowl, Mazio Royster of Southern Cal was the top offensive player with 125 rushing yards.
Todd Marinovich of the Trojans completed 18 of 30 passes for 174 yards with three interceptions; Michigan State's Dan Enos completed nine of 17 passes for 131 yards with one interception. The Trojans outgained Michigan State, 336-215, limiting the Spartans to 84 yards on the ground, and held the ball for 35 minutes 45 seconds.