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December 2, 2012

Mark Dantonio

Gary Patterson

THE MODERATOR:  I want to welcome all the media joining us.  We have Coach Patterson on the line.  I'm going to ask him to make a few opening remarks.
Coach Patterson.
COACH PATTERSON:  First I want to thank the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for inviting TCU, on behalf of our chancellor, AD, all of us here, to get a chance to come back to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, we're excited about that, to play a very good Michigan State team.  Getting back to that area is something we want to do again.  Very excited about it and we're looking forward to the opportunity.
THE MODERATOR:  Let's go to questions.

Q.  Can you talk about the quarterback transition you were forced to undergo this year and how your redshirt freshman handled that?
COACH PATTERSON:¬† Well, we were 4‑0 when we hit that mark.¬† In the last eight ballgames, we got to seven wins, so we were 3‑5.¬† Obviously a little bit of a rough patch.¬† But a big overtime win at West Virginia, then beating Texas in Austin, which was a big win for us.¬† Close ballgame.¬† Played Kansas State and Oklahoma.¬† Led to some drives coming down in the Oklahoma game, had a chance to win the game at the end.
Really matured.¬† But obviously it's hard to give up a junior that had been 11‑2 and also was 4‑0 going into the season.
But what Trevone has done in this month of December gave him a chance to step back, 13, 14 practices back under his belt to make him better.  It's going to help him quite a bit to be able to do that.
Obviously got us back to a bowl game, which was something that was a concern from the beginning anytime you make that kind of a change.

Q.  A lot of people look at this team and they say it's just going to be a defensive struggle without many points.  Is it that obvious or do you see it differently?
COACH PATTERSON:  I don't know.  We play in a conference where there's a few more points scored.  But definitely against two really good defenses, probably if you looked at it, both teams, when you go into a bowl game, I've always said you have to be careful what you wish for, what you talk about, because usually it changes when you give two teams a month to prepare for a ballgame.
They said when I played in the Rose Bowl it was going to be a scoring fest.¬† It ended up 21‑19.¬† For us, we want to find a way to win the ballgame.
I don't know about a defensive struggle.  I think the little I've watched so far of Michigan State, very good on defense.  I'm sure both teams get a little healthier, get a little fresher, will have some tricks up their sleeves.

Q.  They've got a really good runningback.  Have you been able to see any kind of film of this team at all yet?
COACH PATTERSON:  Like I was just saying, I've been watching film on them already today.  We already knew about Bell.  Good offensive line, big tight ends.  We have our hands full.  Obviously one of the bigger teams we will have played this year.  We're going to have to physically get ready for this ballgame come the 29th.

Q.  What kind of offense do the Spartans run?
COACH PATTERSON:¬† They're multiple.¬† They like to pound it.¬† They like to get after you up front.¬† They'll play‑action, get into some one‑back stuff.¬† You have to get ready to play.¬† They've been to bowl games.¬† They understand the importance of winning.¬† This team will be no different.
Coach Dantonio and I are good friends.  He and I have talked about football quite a bit.

Q.  Can you talk about your relationship, how long have you known each other?
COACH PATTERSON:  All the way back to when he was at Cincinnati as the head coach.  We've been going on a Nike trip together, him and his wife.  Really got to where we know each other pretty well.
Really like him as far as the kind of man he is, what he stands for.  It's going to be fun being in a bowl game with him.  Obviously you have to compete the three hours that night.  But outside of that, we're excited about getting an opportunity.
You always like it when you can be in a situation where you're around friends, when you get more time around them.  As coaches, we never get a chance to do that.

Q.  Do you swap X's and O's or anything?
COACH PATTERSON:¬† No.¬† More it's just about what you do in your off‑season.¬† Both places have been successful, how do you run your program, get your kids to play hard, those kinds of questions.¬† How do we keep our wives happy, being a coach's wife, how hard it is to do that (laughter).

Q.  You were mentioning Michigan State likes to pound it.  You played Wisconsin.  Do you think that game can help you in any way preparing for this game?  Do you see any similarities between those teams?
COACH PATTERSON:¬† Well, everybody's different.¬† It's really hard to compare different football teams.¬† Obviously Bell has run for almost 1600 yards, so he's very good.¬† Probably the difference is he carries the ball most of the main load.¬† Comparatively, you had to play three tailbacks at Wisconsin.¬† They were all a little bit different.¬† But both are very powerful.¬† Both can come right at you.¬† Both play‑action you.
We don't see as much of the big groupings in the Big 12.¬† One of the things, though, for these bowl practices, we have LSU starting off the season next year.¬† It will be a good 1‑2 punch.

Q.  Can you talk about your first season back in the Big 12.  How did you like it?
COACH PATTERSON:  Well, I loved it.  To get back in front of our kids, recruiting purposes, the fans, the old Southwest Conference, there isn't any doubt it's going to be good for us for recruiting purposes.
When you play in another conference, part of it is to get your kids emotionally ready.  They knew you were going to play in front of 15,000 people, you were going to play from one coast to the other coast.  Now your fan base can travel as a general rule.  You're playing in front of between 50,000 to 100,000 people on a daily basis.
My job went from emotionally getting ready to play in front of a big game to more focusing them in and doing the other things that head coaches do.
It's definitely a big positive for us from a financial basis and a fan base, kids and recruiting.  I don't think there's going to be any way you can compare it to what we've been in the last 10 years.

Q.  Talk about their defense for a second.
COACH PATTERSON:  I tell you, if you look at their scores, they obviously have a really good defense.  They run the ball, keep it close.  As always, me being a defensive guy, your defense wins ballgames for you, keeps you out of the end zone.  That will be our challenge is to try to produce points against a group that hasn't given up a lot of points this season.
We have quite a challenge on our hands.
THE MODERATOR:  Coach, thank you very much.  We look forward to welcoming you back.
COACH PATTERSON:  Thanks.  We're excited about it.  Happy holidays to everybody.
THE MODERATOR:  We've been joined by Coach Dantonio.  Coach will make an opening statement and then we'll go right to questions.
Coach Dantonio.
COACH DANTONIO:  We're very excited here at Michigan State to come to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe this year and represent the Big Ten Conference against an outstanding opponent.
We have a very exciting team.  We have the leading rusher in the Big Ten Conference, also a defense that ranked in four categories tops in the Big Ten.  We've lost a couple games but very, very narrow margins.  But our football team will play, and we're very, very excited about this.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions.

Q.¬† What do you say to people who say this is going to be a low‑scoring defensive struggle?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think both teams have outstanding defenses.¬† I've known Coach Patterson for quite a while.¬† He's a defensive‑minded coach, as I am.¬† Both have outstanding defenses.
I think both teams also possess some skill on the offensive side of the ball.  We've seen glimpses of TCU on film already.  Very exciting offense.  They have a quarterback that creates, wide receivers, very athletic offensive line.  I'm sure they'll be difficult to stop.
But you never know how games are going to play out.  That's why we play them.

Q.¬† Le'Veon Bell, great year.¬† Can you talk about whether you saw this coming from him, the way he was dedicated to his job in the off‑season?
COACH DANTONIO:  Le'Veon has been a staple here for the last three years.  We've used other backs as well.
This year he sort of carried the load for us.¬† Had 300 plus carries.¬† We used him in every facet of our football game.¬† He had an outstanding spring and summer camp.¬† Conditioning‑wise, he was fantastic.
He's a big back, about 245 pounds, athletic.  We sort of rode that horse a little bit.  We have other backs, Larry Caper, and Nick Hill is a guy that makes plays for us as well.  But Le'Veon has been the guy that sort of pulled the load.

Q.  You're not shy about running him more than 30 times.  Given your depth, that must be a testament you obviously feel you're getting more out of him than you are anybody else.  Why do you see that in him?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Well, he's a physical runningback.¬† He's got a different style.¬† He's a guy that can spin and cut and get the tough yard.¬† What we've found is yards‑after‑contact he's been excellent at.¬† That's been a feature for us.
We've had extremely close games.¬† Many of them have been low‑scoring.¬† So you're trying to run the ball and trying to produce first downs, et cetera.¬† Other guys have not hit stride as much as he has, and I'm sure that's due to the number of carries he's had.¬† Everybody has equal opportunities.

Q.  You've had some heartbreaking losses.  How has the team managed to stay together and bounce back from some of those?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think we have excellent chemistry on our football team, great leadership at the ground level.  We've responded.  We've come off tough losses, regathered ourselves, played well the next week.
Every game we've come ready to play.  There's no question that we've kept our composure in that area and been resilient.  I think that shows when you look at our football team.  That's the one thing that shows.  We've gone to Wisconsin and won in a tough environment.  Back and forth pretty much the whole season.
I think the main thing when you look at our football team, we've got to finish, there's no question about that, but we can play.  We've got to be able to finish.  And the attention to detail things, have to make the play when we have the chance to make it, offensive call, defensive call, call from the head coach, whatever the case.  The margin of victory has been very, very narrow for either party, whether you're playing us or whether we're playing you.

Q.¬† First‑team corners.¬† Talk about what that allows you to do having two fine corners like that.
COACH DANTONIO:  We put those guys out there a lot.  They're isolated a lot.  But they've responded.  Both of those have deep ball judgment, get their hands on you, run very, very well.  They're both guys that have played three years for us.  Both these guys have experience.  We look to build on that experience.
But there's no question that having those guys in the game for us gives us an opportunity to do other things defensively, stop the run, do some of the different things we're able to do.  They've had good years.

Q.  Coach Patterson said you know each other pretty well.  Can you talk about the time you spent together at those Nike retreats.
COACH DANTONIO:¬† I think I've been going to these since 2008.¬† He's gone as well.¬† We've always enjoyed each other's company out there.¬† He's a great guy.¬† I think he's obviously a great football coach.¬† We had an opportunity to participate when he was in Conference USA at the University of Cincinnati when TCU was still in that conference.¬† Just an excellent football coach.¬† His players are very well‑disciplined, play extremely hard, with toughness.¬† I think there's a lot of similarities in the things we believe in as coaches.

Q.  You have played a lot of close games.  How can that help a team in a bowl game, having to fight through all that?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, right now it gives us a chance a little bit to reflect.  We'll have about a month to reflect on everything that's gone on and critique it.  But I think the one thing that it gives us, it gives us a feeling like we can play.
We haven't had a football game where we've lost in a big way.  They've all been close.  I think five games have come down to the very end of the game with the exception of one.  One play here, one play there, we're a different football team.
But you have to play what you've got.  We want to point our compass north.  I believe the glass is half full, not half empty.  That's how our football team expects to play.  We come ready to play every week.  We'll play with confidence.

Q.  Mark, the signature of your play last year was the fake punt against Notre Dame.  You've never been shy about running fakes.  Talk about how those things come about and the importance of special teams.
COACH DANTONIO:  I think one of the reasons we've been so successful the two previous years, when I talk about 'so successful', winning 11 games, it's because we have come up with great special teams play.  There's no question, we look for opportunities in all areas of our football team, whether it's offense, defense or special teams.
It's all about timing.  We've been fortunate to have a great punter and kicker.  Conroy kicked 22 field goals this year, so he's sixth in the country in kicking them.  But we've had too many opportunities basically.  We have to score more effectively in the red zone.  That's why our games seem to be so close.
We have the leading rusher in the Big Ten Conference as I said going into yesterday's game.  I think defensively in five categories we're the number one team in the league.  So we do some things well.  We have to do some other things better, fix those things we need to as we move forward.
To answer your question, we're always going to look at ways to handle ourselves.  There have been some positive special teams plays, but it's all about timing.  We'd rather get points without having to do anything tricky.  We'll try to feature everything we do and play well on special teams.  It's huge in any big game.

Q.  Andrew Maxwell stepped into some tough shoes.  You had problems with dropped passes early in the year.  Evaluate Andrew overall as the year progressed.
COACH DANTONIO:  We lost 95% of our passing offense from last year, whether it be the quarterback, two tight ends, three wide receivers, and a tailback as well.  So our guys came in inexperienced.
I think there was room for growth and there was a big learning curve.  I think we're past that.  I think we have guys now who can catch the ball, have confidence in themselves.  I think that's showing near the end of the season.
Maxwell is another guy that had limited playing time.  He has great leadership skills.  He's extremely calm under pressure.
But nevertheless, I think there was a growing period there early in the season.  So hopefully we've addressed those concerns, we'll be able to step up and play extremely well come December 29th.
THE MODERATOR:  Coach, thank you so much for joining us.  We look forward to having you out here soon.
COACH DANTONIO:  We're looking forward to coming out.  Thanks so much.

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