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Post-Game Quotes: Washington State

Dec. 29, 2017

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Mark Dantonio: Just want to congratulate our football team and our coaching staff on this win, this program win. Program win in every respect. Especially the fact that it’s our 10th win this season which is what we came out here for today. We came out here on sort of a mission and our players did an outstanding job I thought, in the San Diego community, bed check, all the things you have to do in the bowl games and they kept their focus in meetings and kept their focus in practices. We got great practices out here and I think we showed up tonight.

But we’re stockpiling. But if you look at the football game, I thought we played very well defensively – really throughout with the exception of one or two drives – but played very well against a good offense, very well-conceived offense, good conceptually and we tackled well. We tackled well in space, came up with a couple of turnovers. Offensively we got on the board and ran the ball effectively and had big plays in the passing game. And I said because of the pressure, the quarterback was going to have to create, and that’s what he did. He created with his feet and then with his arm as well and, you know, big things happened. I thought we played solidly on special teams and came away with a convincing win. Very, very excited about it.

Q. Prior to the season you said that you wanted your team to learn from last year’s struggle about life more than football. Ten wins, only the eighth time it’s happened in Michigan State history. Talk about what this win means more than football for these young men and this program?
Mark Dantonio: Sure, I said it out there at the awards ceremony. I think the biggest thing you learn as a young person or as a coach or anybody, is to get up after you’ve been knocked down. Whether you’re in a corporation or whether you’re in a sport, or whether you’re a coach, the ability to stand up and continue to persevere when things don’t look so well for you. Our football team did that. We came in with a mind-set this year and came in with the goals.

Even last year I didn’t feel like anybody… I didn’t go into a game saying we can’t win this football game and basically when you look at it last year, you blink. That’s all we did last year, we blinked. Because if you look at the culture of this football team – 100 wins in 11 years – you do the math. That’s nine wins a year on average, great coaching and great players, and we tend to have them and I’m blessed to be here as the head football coach. I’ve always felt like that from day one and still feel like that now, even more so.

Q. Mark, regarding social media, almost a year ago today you tweeted, “The Spartans stood on the big stage of college football. We will rise up again, put your name on it, #2017Spartans.” What does it mean to have made that come true?
Mark Dantonio: I can’t remember tweeting that out, but I did feel like we would rise up. When we walked into that building last year after the 12th game, we knew that we would start back and that the road back wouldn’t be easy, but there was a road back. I believed in that because of our seniors, because of our younger players that were coming and because of our coaching staff.

I can’t say enough about our coaching staff. We have great coaches. We have better people. They’re great people. They believe in the players, and, you know, goes back and forth. There’s just a good feeling there between our players and our coaches and I think you win with that.

Q. The game plan with Brian (Lewerke) today, getting him out and running more was that on the fly or was that the way to go because you saw something against their defense?
Mark Dantonio: I think we knew we had to take advantage of everything. It’s a bowl game. We had prepared for everything.

He’s a naturally gifted runner. I said that a long time ago and his dad told us when we recruited him he’s faster than you think he is, and I would agree with that. He can create and make plays and get out of trouble with his feet, and a couple of times he did that tonight, and I think that’s what got us going on a few. Felton (Davis) had huge catches. Huge catches and great throws.

Q. Brian, you took that hit, came out of the game, came back in. Take us through that hit, how you felt and how you knew you were ready to come back?
Brian Lewerke: First of all, it is awesome (Damion Terry) was able to go in and get a touchdown in the last game. So happy for him. That’s awesome that he handled that. I’m glad that he was able to do that.

Took a pretty big hit and it was more my knee, I was hobbling around and they made me lay down and looked at it. They looked at my head and my knee and said I was fine. So I was able to go back out there and push ahead.

Q. Coach, looking at the turn-around that you guys were able to complete this season and then kind of the exclamation point today, what does it say about the character of this team?
Mark Dantonio: Like I said earlier, I could speak volumes about our character. Not just a football team, but as individuals. It’s a great example of what I said earlier. It’s a great example that when you put your mind to something you can overcome problems, redirect the course of what you’re trying to do. But you’ve got to have a plan. You’ve got to have a belief in that plan and people that will follow that plan. That’s what we have. We have those type of individuals here. We’ve always had good chemistry. Last year was a bit of an anomaly, I would say, we were winning every one of those football games that we were winning. I would like to say we’re back, but 2018 is around the corner.

So you can’t say that because you’ve got to start proving yourself all over again. But this was as great of a football season that I have had as a coach because of where we came from and what we were able to accomplish.

Q. Chris, all the talk about the air raid offense and you get 35 on the board while they’re sitting at 3, what do you say about your defense?
Chris Frey: Even without Luke (Falk), they’re a great team. They have a very good quarterback that has some playing experience. I think it shows how much we studied film in the few weeks that we had to get ready for this team. We used that extra time to try and master what they do and figure out how we can key on specific plays. Our offense came out ready to play and put points up on the board and the defense tackled well and executed our game plan very well.

Q. Brian, you hear all the time the bowl game is the first game of the next season. So what does a win like this mean?
Brian Lewerke: It’s big. We can build off momentum that this game brings us and with a lot of young guys, a lot of work to be done and a lot of potential to be reached. But I think it’s very big for us.

Q. Chris, I want to go back to this summer when you got emotional talking to me about last season and you said to me as a senior you wanted to restore this program for Coach. You told me a couple weeks ago this isn’t about me as a senior this is about Coach. You talked about what it would mean to you to give him this game. Now you did it. Talk about what Coach Mark Dantonio means to you personally as a man?
Chris Frey: Last season everybody doubted Coach. We stuck with him, and one season isn’t going to change who he is or the way he treats his team. For us to come out this year and give him back the program to where we believe it should be, it’s huge for this team moving forward and even bigger for him. Leaving this place, I want to see Coach D here and I’m excited to be part of a team that allowed us to come back and have a great season and give Coach D his 100th win.

Q. For any of you, how good does it feel from your perspective to see the doubt and shut it down and restore some faith in the program?
Felton Davis III: It’s big, you know, for us to challenge the doubts and challenge the critics. Basically we’ve been through a lot from whenever the last game was last year to now. So we’ve been through a lot all the way till now. It speaks volumes, like Coach D said, for our coaches and what Coach D and Coach Mannie put us through helps build men. Basically they put us through the fire and we survived. We are here now. Ten wins.

Q. Felton, LJ Scott told you a while ago he was coming back. What did he tell you and when did you know?
Felton Davis III: LJ told me, I think it was after the Minnesota game. But I already knew he was coming back, because Michigan State is a great place, you know, and people say that a lot about schools. But Michigan State is a great place and I knew he loved everybody that’s here. We had unfinished business, let alone his individual stats but team goals, you know. We had a lot of unfinished business to take care of, so I knew he would come back. He told me that after the Minnesota game.

Q. Brian, you seemed to be in a rhythm, 10 for 11, maybe a rhythm that you hadn’t been in before. Did it feel like that out there, that you guys found a different level of comfort? In that first long touchdown pass how careful were you not to overthrow it?
Brian Lewerke: Very careful. I saw how wide open he was and I tried to throw it right at him and make sure -- I knew if he had to stop and catch it he would score anyway. But we started off slow in the pass game, started off 0-for-5. But we were able to pick it up a little bit the second quarter and start executing, and I was able to set my feet and make my reads a little the better, settle into the game as it went on.

Q. Felton, on the touchdown catch, when you get that open do you find yourself thinking about it and do you have to stop yourself so you don’t end up on the wrong end of a highlight reel?
Felton Davis III: Yeah, throughout the whole play I am running the whole post and I see the corner and the safety both running towards the coach and I looked and I realized he didn’t throw the ball yet. The first thing that went through my head was just don’t drop it. That’s the first thing that went through my head and I made the catch and scored.

Q. When you set team goals as far as LJ coming back in 2018 can you specify what those might be?
Felton Davis III: We take ours one at a time. So first one is winning the east, and then the Big Ten championship. And then put ourselves into a position to win the national championship.

Q. Take the spring to get better and bowl practice is time to improve. Did you see this team improve during bowl practice? Would you agree that you guys hit harder?
Chris Frey: We had two fundamental practices at the beginning of bowl practice and basically that was just going back to the basics. We learned how to tackle, going through our basic coverages, trying to master everything that we do because when we do what we need to do, we win games. It’s not about what they do. It’s about what we do and that’s what we focused on. We focused on being perfect on what we do, and I think that showed tonight in the game because when we were on they weren’t getting yards, not completing passes.

Q. You seemed emotional when you took that trophy tonight. It’s your last time in this jersey and you won’t be in uniform next year, but what can this team be next year?
Chris Frey: It’s an honor. I remember my freshman year we were losing by 20 points, and they gave the MVP trophy to the other team because they were going to win. It’s always been a dream of mine to come to a bowl game and win, and it was a blessing.

I couldn’t have done it without the guys in the locker room. I told Joe Bachie I learned a lot from him. He pushed me to be a better player and person and it’s be been an honor playing with all these guys. I got back to the locker room and I was talking to Shane Jones and I don’t want to take this jersey off. I’m going to take as much time as I can in my jersey. The future is bright for this team. I’m excited to continue watching this team grow because we have so many young guys that have the ability to be great and with the work ethic I know they have, that they showed in the off-season. The sky is the limit for everybody on this team.

Q. Chris, you had ten guys with three or more tackles and nobody with more than three. What was that plan to tackle, seemed like you were swarming, and what were the differences between the two quarterbacks, the guy you didn’t see and the guy you did see?
Chris Frey: We knew Luke Falk wasn’t going to run the ball. He is not a runner, and we knew the guy that was coming in was a little more of a runner. We knew coming into this game that they throw the check down around ten times a game, and we knew that we were going to have to tackle in space. That’s something we worked on throughout bowl practice and it allowed us to get better at that, part of what you were saying.

Q. It may be hard to recall but you were down 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, what clicked for you, was it rust that had to wear off? Talk about that.
Brian Lewerke: It might have been rust, maybe not playing for a month. But I think one of the biggest things was we adjusted our play calls to what they were giving us, tried to run the ball better, pass the ball better. Overall I felt things started clicking because we got a little more comfortable with ourselves and what was being called out there.

Q. Mark, college football is extremely competitive and their quarterback just admitted that you guys dominated them. To hear an opponent say that is honest. It’s strong words, do you agree?
Mark Dantonio: I don’t know about dominate. It was a good football game we sorta stretched out there in the second half. We were ready to play. We were fresh. We were fresh and ready to play. The players, as I said, came here with a… It wasn’t good enough to win nine games, they wanted to win 10. They came here with a mindset and sometimes you’ve got to go with that mindset. We needed to have a great bowl game, we couldn’t afford to have problems off the field. We needed to play well in the bowl game. It’s a national stage. It’s a top-20 game, catapulted us up the ranks further.

So we’re probably a top-15 team or a little better that we were last year. So we’re back to where we’ve been and I think we reaffirmed our stature I think in college football. This has been a good football team and it should continue to be a good football team. We’ve got good players and we’re young and we’ve had great leadership from our seniors. There were only four seniors that played a ton, but the rest of them led in their own ways and their own areas, and because of that I think good things followed.

Q. Mark, LJ (Scott) said after the game he plans on coming back. Did you know going in before tonight that was his intent? What does that mean for the program?
Mark Dantonio: That’s good for me to hear, certainly. I sorta -- we talked, we did have a talk, but that was not for me to say, or for me to say to anybody else. So I kept it quiet and let him go forth. I think it’s important to note that LJ Scott had a 3.5 grade point average this semester. He’s on track to getting his degree, and leaving early would put that on hold a little longer. I think he could be a tremendous tailback. A guy that we can hand the ball to 250 times and do great things, much like when Shilique Calhoun and Connor Cook made the decision to come back. They followed with a ring, a Big Ten championship ring, and I think those things become possible. We have an established tailback coming back and he’s a special player.

Q. Mark, you see Chris mention not wanting to take that jersey off. How fulfilling is it to see a guy like him go through the recruiting process five, six years ago and then see him get to this point?
Mark Dantonio: Are you talking about Chris?

Q. Chris or any of the seniors.
Mark Dantonio: It starts to become very real. I mentioned that at the press conference, I don’t know if anybody heard it, but I mentioned it at the press conference. It was tough to take the jersey off for the last time. I remember when I took my jersey off. It was a long time ago. Your last game at that particular college, a lot of brotherhood and love that’s tied up in you and your football team. You take the jersey off and that signifies that’s it. You have an opportunity to play professional football, that’s great or you go out into your life, that’s great, too. But you’re going to miss something because between 18 and 22 years old you’ve been with these people and they’re more than just people that you work with. They’re people that you live with and everything. So it’s tough. I feel for him and we talked about that and that’s one of the things that makes playing here at Michigan State so special. That they do feel like that.

Q. Coach, you mentioned this season might be your most satisfying as a head coach. The month of preparation and build-up to this team you come up with a younger team. How does it compare to the Rose Bowl victory over Stanford and the Cotton Bowl victory over Baylor, how would you compare and contrast that?
Mark Dantonio: This season means so much because of where we came from, because of the youth of the football team and the doubt from the outsiders along the way. We’ve had some big games. We had one game that we would like to have back and try and -- you know, that we got beat badly. The rest of them, I thought we were pretty much in it. But how does it compare? I don’t know. It seems because we had the start last year, we went to the Rose Bowl, came off the Rose Bowl year, went to the Cotton Bowl and left a little on the table that year. We won, beat Baylor, but ended up 10-2 and didn’t win the championship. Our goal was to win the championship this year and going into November we were in control of our own destiny. It didn’t happen, but we made it to November with the opportunity to win a championship. So there’s a lot in this team and we talk about that and we talk about different things in terms of succeeding at the highest level. That’s what makes it special, I think, this year is people. It’s always about the people.

But this is this year’s team and it’s just special. I don’t know what I can -- you’ve been around Chris Frey for four years, five years and you see them flip a switch, turn a tide and bounce back from a tough situation and it’s gratifying to see people do that.

Q. Coach, looking at what you do have to build off of and the talent you have are you excited for what’s to come?
Mark Dantonio: Yeah, I am excited. I think we have a good football team coming back. I think we have an outstanding recruiting class coming. So I think we will have guys that can help in that area on this football team. I think we’re hungry. I think we’re humble. We will work hard, believe in each other, believe is such a big part of it. We have confidence in each other. We will play hard and we will play tough. I thought it was great -- if you look at that football game we won because we won it physically. That’s the reality of it. We shut down their run after catch by tackling very well. We didn’t get the sacks we wanted, but we flushed the quarterback enough times. We stopped the run and the offense ran the ball well enough to control the line of scrimmage and I don’t know if they had a sack maybe it was one, but we threw the ball down the field effectively. So like Brian (Lewerke) said, it was great for Terry to go in there and he looked good. And it was good to see him have his last game and have that feeling going out.

Good, guys? Thank you.

 

 

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