TEMPE, Ariz. - The following is a transcript of the podium portion of Michigan State's postgame press conference, following the Spartans' 17-16 victory over TCU at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl:
MARK DANTONIO's opening statement: Well, I just want to congratulate our football team, Spartan Nation for a great win. Very similar to last year's bowl game where we bounced back. Continue to say it all along, we have great chemistry on our football team, great leadership at the ground level, which to me is players' level. We pushed through the tough times.
I thought we came out and played much better the second half obviously. I thought Connor Cook did a nice job with a 90-yard drive, gave us a little bit of momentum. We ran the ball more effectively. Came up with a big turnover on special teams. Got it in there for the lead. Dan Conroy makes a clutch kick at the end. Just keep bouncing back. Very, very proud of our football team.
Q. When William was talking about they said if you didn't get the sack, 20 push-ups, that's the most you've laughed all season. What's going through your mind when you hear that?
DANTONIO: I didn't see us do many push-ups out there the first half. Our guys compete. Great defensive game plan by Coach Narduzzi and our defensive staff. We played very, very well on defense giving up only that amount of points in the situations we were in.
I thought Mike Sadler had an outstanding game. Really continuing to punt well. Obviously the turnover was huge.
Q. You're a guy that stability is huge with. The decision on the last call to go with Connor?
DANTONIO: What's going through my mind? I'm not quite sure. I had a feeling on that situation. We had a go with a guy that had moved us a little bit. TCU has an excellent defense, they really do. We couldn't get loose. Connor completes four passes, I think, 4 of 11. Andrew completes five. It's not like we were ripping them.
Le'Veon has a duck that we shoot down on a trick play and falls inTyQuan Hammock's hands for a huge play. He scrambled once, moving the ball in his direction. Felt like that was the best thing to do at that time.
Maybe more importantly, we felt like he could scramble a little better than Andrew. We needed to get in field goal position. So that's the way we went. We came out on top.
There's a lot of different people that could deal with this. Andrew is a tremendous person. When I say 'deal with it,' there's a lot of people that had to do with winning this football game.
I don't want to slight anybody, say this guy is the new quarterback. There's a lot of colleges across the country that play two quarterbacks or play guys situationally. We just felt like we wanted to play a redshirt freshman and get him some reps in a bowl game. He had enough time to prepare and we wanted to see what he could do. He did well so we used him the second half, too.
Q. You had 13 games, 10 of them like this. With so many of them that have gone against them, when they kicked that 53 yarder, how did you feel?
DANTONIO: I really felt like we could get down there in field goal situation and do something with it. We only needed a couple plays, and we got them. We got a nice short dig to Dion Sims.
We hit Le'Veon with a little run. I felt like we would be able to get it down there and move the football.
The thing that was impressive to me was we stayed composed all the way through to the end. We won against Wisconsin very close. We won against Boise very close. So our guys have won. It's just that sometimes when you lose, it sort of gets magnified for all of us.
Q. In the first half they gashed you for a couple really long pass plays. That's uncharacteristic for you guys. Talk about what happened.
DANTONIO: On the one deep ball, we had it covered, but we misplayed the deep ball. Isaiah I think misplayed it a little bit. I thought he should have picked it.
The other was a catch and run. We should have made the tackle.
Again, you go back to it's game time and game reaction. It's something that you don't do as much game time action for a month.
Credit TCU and the plays they made. I thought Boykin does a nice job. He gets the ball out. He's a guy that can create. Up front I thought, we played very well. We stopped the run for the most part. I thought we made them one-dimensional in that aspect.
Le'Veon Bell, Max Bullough, Dan Conroy and William Gholston were made available for interviews at the press conference podium after the game.
Questions for the players:
Q. Le'Veon, after losing so many games in this fashion during this year, how does this one feel?
Le'Veon Bell: It felt great to actually get a win like this. Actually coming down to a kick. Conroy is getting lined up, everybody is confident he's going to make it. He's done it so many times in practice. Practice is nothing like the game. He's a clutch player and he came through in the clutch for us.
Q. Conroy, the last kick of your entire career to win the game, is there anything that can add more to it?
Dan Conroy: That was pretty exciting in and of itself. With so many close games, losing like we did so many games in this season, to have one go our way this way was definitely exciting.
Q. Le'Veon, how will this game weigh in the decision you have to make now?
Le'Veon Bell: You know, it's going to take a little part into it. It's a whole bunch of other factors that's going to go into the decision. I want to make sure I do things the right way, talk to my family about it, the players and coaches about it. Make sure I get output from everybody and see what everybody thinks.
Q. With Coach Dantonio's staunch belief in you, that the program is on a rise, how much did you feel you needed a victory today to support that?
Max Bullough: Well, we've been in a lot of similar situations this year. If you watched any of our games, that's clear to see. We're a team that we can lose to Iowa in the fourth quarter and bounce back the next week and play the whole four quarters, not be kicked when we're done. That's a testament to the guys we've got here, the leadership inside the locker room, all the way on up.
There's no doubt in my mind, even with how many losses we've had this year, we're going to come out on top. That's the kind of confidence we have in each other and the kind of confidence I have in my teammates.
William Gholston: To harp on what he said, we just go into each and every game, try to dominate, try to do the best we can, perform the way coach want us to. We go in every game. Every game means everything. If we lose one, we go the next week and try to win.
Q. Le'Veon, obviously you're in the huddle, last drive. Talk about Connor Cook's presence, what he was like in those moments.
Le'Veon Bell: Connor, he's a good player. We all knew that. He gets a lot of reps in practice. We know what Connor can do. He got thrown in the fire today. He executed, did a great job.
I was always confident in him. If he needed help in anything, I make sure I'm there to answer any questions. But he handled himself good and led us to a game-winning drive.
Q. Le'Veon, the first half, they seemed to have you contained. Was there something you did differently in the second half?
Le'Veon Bell: Not really. We just wanted to stick to our guns, stick to what we do, and that's run the football. We know those guys are good players. One of the best D-lines we played all year. They fought, third and fourth quarter, the O-line kept pushing and getting better, we started wearing those guys out, eventually got the ball in the end zone a couple times.
Our defense did a great job of getting us the ball back and made sure we got back in a rhythm. It was a total team effort today and I thank these guys.
Q. William, you were able to put pressure on Boykin. What was the secret to that?
William Gholston: Every huddle before we came out on defense, the D-line, we got together, we said, First one back there, you don't have to do push-ups. A couple guys owe some push-ups. Every sack was 20 push-ups. So I was trying not to do any push-ups (smiling).