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December 27, 2012

Mark Dantonio


THE MODERATOR:  We'll begin our interview session now with Coach Dantonio.
COACH DANTONIO:  Very excited to be here representing Michigan State at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.  Very appreciative of the gift given to us now.  Everything at this bowl has been first class from the time we accepted the bowl bid until right now, including all the different things that our players have received, the experiences we've had, the practice facilities, the hotel.
We're very excited about the opportunity and the challenge to play against TCU here Saturday evening.  We're looking forward to a great football game.
With that, I'll take some questions.
THE MODERATOR:  Questions for coach.

Q.  How much does the result determine whether or not the season in your mind is a success?
COACH DANTONIO:  I don't know you can say success or failure.  There's no question a bowl win at any level, whether you're coming off an 11‑2 record or an 11‑1 record, which we did in the past two years.  We lost one bowl, we lived with it for eight months.  We won the other, we lived with it eight months.
So I think it propels you into the next season and it sort of sets the tone.  I don't think it translates into success or failure the next season as evidence of this.  At the same time it makes those eight months a lot easier to deal with and live with.  You feel yourself moving forward when you win a bowl game.  I would say that whether you're coming into the Game 6‑6 or 10‑3 like we were last year.

Q.  What have you learned about yourself and your program throughout the last three months?
COACH DANTONIO:  I learned that we have a great foundation at Michigan State in our football program right now, that we've got great chemistry, that our players expect to win, that winning hangs on a thread sometimes.  It can go either way.
But the real result of who we are and what we do is what you see from our players on a day‑to‑day basis.  It's not just about winning football games, I'm not naïve to that, it's about how you go about your business, what they're able to gain from their experience here, not just as a football player.  If we keep that in mind as we move forward, we'll be a successful program.  Winning will take care of itself.
If we start to be divisive and think about only ourselves, that's when things start to fall apart.  I've learned our football team is built on character and I'm proud of that.

Q.  What are some of the moments this year that told you it's been on solid ground?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think the fact we lost five games by a total of 13 points, we've really never caved in, that we kept playing every single game.  We came to play every single game, we were prepared mentally, we were fresh, enthusiastic.  We had that kind of response after every tough loss, gives you an indication that our football team is resilient.
We expect to win.  I feel like we can play against anybody in the country and win.  The opposite is true, as well.  Every program that we play against has that ability to win, as well.
You take it for what it's worth, but you make sure you're lined up, got your ducks in a row, and are prepared mentally and physically to do the best you can do.

Q.  Maybe Notre Dame?
COACH DANTONIO:  You want specific games?

Q.  Was there a point where you were looking for that, there were a bit of nerves?
COACH DANTONIO:  There's nerves every game.  I think when you come off of losing to Michigan 12‑10 in the last six seconds in the game, you have the win, you lose it, it's a big rival game, you go to play Wisconsin the next week, things aren't going very well offensively, you put together a drive and win in overtime is a huge swing momentum‑wise.
I guess it's a proving ground to where we are as the character of our football team.
The same thing could be said after tough losses against Nebraska and Northwestern, two games I feel like we could have easily won.  All these games we could have won.  But nevertheless, we just kept playing.
We got ourselves ready to play in the Minnesota game, played ourselves through things.  Played ourselves a little bit off a cliff, if you would.

Q.  Coach Patterson said he was watching Notre Dame‑Michigan State film more than anything else.  Is there a particular game of theirs you're paying closer attention to?
COACH DANTONIO:  We've gone all the way back and watched a little bit of Wisconsin from their Rose Bowl experience.  Maybe their players are a little bit of different, but somewhat of who they are defensively and who we are offensively sort of merits that.
From a defensive standpoint, you look at them as a little bit of Nebraska, as a little bit of Boise State, some of that nature, how they played against Boise State.  Boise State is a game we watched a lot.  Oklahoma State we watched a lot.  Baylor.  We've watched them all really.
Offensively they are who they are.  But there are certain games you see, because they have so many young players playing, they may change.  There's an evolution of who they are as they move forward with so many young players playing.

Q.  Coach Patterson says not only is it you and him, but it's the wives, everything.  He has to put that out of his mind for three hours, this isn't fun.  Do you agree with that?
COACH DANTONIO:  That's not the fun part of it.  But it's pretty close fraternity of coaches.  You sort of have that feeling every time you play.
You set that aside, you concentrate on your program, your football team, who we are.  I can tell you this, there's no substitute for winning.  With all that being said about our football team, all the different things we talk about in terms of the character of who we are, what we're trying to build here as a foundation here as a football team, there is no substitute for winning when it comes to the joy of what we're trying to accomplish here.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, you know, we were riding in on the bus.  We don't have Camelback Mountain back in Michigan.  It's different.  You don't have the sunshine right now.  It's just a different landscape, different climate and culture out here.  I think that's exciting for our football team.
This is the first time our players have been out here in the desert.  We've been to Florida.  Probably four of the last five years in Florida, one time in Texas.  This is different for them.  It gives us a freshness in terms of what we're experiencing right now.
From my perspective, if you're fresh, you're a little bit more enthusiastic, there's a little bit more bounce in your step.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH DANTONIO:  Recruiting is so accelerated now, who is to say because if you're 6‑6, you think maybe you can come and have a bigger impact on our program immediately, as opposed to if you're 11‑2, you may never play.  It goes with the territory what we've been able to accomplish as a result of our players, them buying into a system, us recruiting players that fit our system.
A lot of it's timing, a lot of it's due to when is your time.  When your time comes, you have to be ready to play.

Q.  What is it you sell this year?
COACH DANTONIO:  This coming year?

Q.  When you're on the road.
COACH DANTONIO:  We're a relatively young football team right now.  The majority of our scholarships are tied up already with commitments.  So we're on to the last few guys.  So it's tight.
If you're going to jump in, you better jump in quick because this is a special program going special places.  We're a very young football team and I think there's great things in front of us.

Q.  What do you forecast for the future when you look back on this year being a building block?
COACH DANTONIO:  Everything we do, whether it's game to game or season to season, is a building block schematically in that season or in this program.
So we put that building over here say, this is where we could have been, this is where we're at.  I do think it's a solid piece of the foundation.  So many times you have to fall down a little bit to be able to move forward.  As long as we're always following forward in what we're doing, we're going to continue to gain ground.

Q.  In Tempe now, walking through the stadium, is that going to bring something special?
COACH DANTONIO:  It will.  My daughters were 10 and eight when we came here in 2002.  They still want to go back to The Princess a little bit and remember those times.  I was talking to Jim Tressel today a little bit about our time here back in 2002 and 2003.  But it was a special moment in our lives.
It's something that we're always going to remember and cherish.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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