Connor Cook threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday nights loss to the Oregon Ducks.
"I just tried to keep a calm mindset. I tried not to get caught up in the game, caught up in the moment at all," Cook said. "They just made more plays than us. We had some opportunities on offense and I needed to grasp them and I didn't."
The Spartans had the second-ranked defense in the nation last year, allowing opponents an average of just over 252 yards per game.
The two teams both went three-and-out on their opening series and it appeared that defenses would rule the day. The Spartans reached Oregon territory midway through the quarter, but on third-and-10 on the 38, Erick Dargan intercepted Cook and ran it back 36 yards.
Michael Geiger kicked a 34-yard field goal and Cook added a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tony Lippett with 2:26 left before the break to pull the Spartans within a point. Michigan State took a 24-18 lead with 18 seconds to go when Josiah Price leaped to grab Cook's 7-yard TD pass into the end zone.
The Ducks were hurt early in the first half when junior offensive lineman Andre Yruretagoyena was carted off the field with what appeared to be a right leg injury.
Michigan State padded its lead with Geiger's 42-year-old field goal, but Mariota found Allen with another touchdown pass, this time from 24 yards out, to cut the Spartans' lead to 27-25.
It was earlier on that series that Mariota made the momentum-changing pitch to Freeman for 17 yards.
"Once I saw Royce five, 10 yards down the field, I just thought he could get there faster than I could," Mariota said.
Even Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio pointed to the play as the moment the game shifted.
"We had to stop the momentum and we had him dead to right and he got out. We had him. I even said, 'He's sacked.'" Dantonio said. "But again, you have to credit him, that's why he's the player he is."
The Spartans' 11-game winning streak included a 34-24 victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship and a 24-20 victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
The Ducks were the highest-ranked nonconference opponent the Spartans had faced since they played top-ranked Nebraska in 1996.