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Outback Bowl Update: Dantonio Press Conference

Coach Dantonio smiles during Sunday's press conference.

Jan. 1, 2012

Coverage: Video | Podcast

TAMPA, Fla. - Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio met with the media on New Year's Day morning for the final time before the Outback Bowl. Dantonio talked about the senior farewell at the end of Saturday's practice, the possibility of back-up quarterback Andrew Maxwell seeing action, and how the bowl week went in Tampa.

Opening Statement...
I told our football team yesterday, I talked a little bit about where we're at. I think you come to a bowl game like this, and things go first day, second day, third day, you're enjoying the bowl experiences and things are sort of moving slowly through the week. As you get to a point like this (today), things go very, very fast for us. It's our seniors' last game obviously; they've had a tremendous career here, the winningest groups of seniors in program history. So it was their last practice yesterday, and it was an emotional practice, just saying goodbye to them, things of that nature.

We'll be ready to go. I think the energy is very, very good for us. I continue to emphasize that we have to bring our energy to this football game. When you look at Georgia, you see a team that plays extremely hard as well. You have to be able to maintain that throughout the game and ride it through the ups and downs of a football game and work through it.

On if Andrew Maxwell will play...
We're going to try and play Andrew Maxwell. We did do that in the 2009 Capital One Bowl (with Kirk Cousins). I think that paid dividends in '09 for him (Cousins). I think it gives him not only an opportunity to play in a big game in a big-time environment, but it sends a message to the rest of our football team in terms of leadership and those type of things. It sort of helps jumpstart 2012. So we will do that in all probability, but I'm not going to hold to that based on where the game's at and how things are going, what yard line and those type of things. I would imagine we would try and do that at some point in time during the game. I do want to add that as we go through this, I think it's important, very important that if you do very well, and Kirk Cousins has done an outstanding job here, that you have the opportunity to sort of pass the baton to somebody. I think that's part of leaving a legacy. He left a thumbprint on the program; the opportunity to do something like that, to pass it to the next guy, is important. We're going to try and work that into tomorrow's contest, but at the same time, we'll have to see where it's at.

On the bowl week events...
Our guys have done a nice job with that. We've made sure they've got a lot of rest. We sort of changed our format. It used to be, the last four years we've tried to get things done on the front end and give our guys as much time as they can in the afternoon, so we practiced late mornings. This year we sort of took a different idea into the game and tried to get our guys as much rest, at least eight to nine, if not more, hours of sleep a night, based on curfew and on what time they had to be there, and then we worked till about 3 or 3:30, then have the rest of the game off. There were a couple of bowl activities obviously that they've gone to. I think they've had time. I think they've represented Michigan State well. We've really had no problems. It's been a great trip thus far. But as we all know, the bottom line is as you go through this, you want to win the football game. That's so critical to the development of your program.

On his feelings the day before the game and whether he's anxious or not...
We coach all the way up to kickoff and we'll coach through the game too. Today is a big day of meetings for us, we'll meet for 30 minutes on special teams, an hour offensively and defensively, we'll do the little things, and it's sort of repetitious right now because we've done these things for quite a while. But we're going to keep working all the way up to game time, because on game day, things are going to change. One thing about bowl preparation is you've had five weeks to analyze who you are and what you're doing, and critique who you are. You have an opportunity to change some things, so I'm sure Georgia has changed some things as well, so we've got to be prepared to move in that direction and adjust.

On bowl games and how it affects the perception of the program...
I think our players have gained maturity the past five years. But again, it's an end result game, and I understand that. We're playing an outstanding opponent. They've got very good players. That's why we play. I can't really answer to that except that our players have been here, although it's our first time at the Outback Bowl, we've been to January 1 bowls before, we've played in big-time environments before. The conference championship game was a big opportunity on a big stage. We've played big stage games before within our conference, and then in bowl games. Obviously we've got to put our best foot forward here as we go through. I do think our football team has maturity in that area. We've got to be result oriented.

On how the senior class has impacted him...
Really since the last few games of the season, going into our last game, Northwestern, and then the championship game and now this one, you've had a chance to sort of step back and look because they were all the last thing; last regular season, the championship and now the last game. How much have they impacted me? I have a tremendous amount of respect for them, love for them as people, because whether they play pro football or go on in life, they've been here through the tough times, they've helped build a program. The 2007 seniors that were red shirted, there are 2008 seniors that played all four years like Keshawn Martin and Trenton Robinson, they came here when things weren't quite where they needed to be maybe. They've helped, I think, bring the program back to prosperity and helped develop the culture here.



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