"First of all, I'd like to congratulate our football team as being the Legends [Division] champion by themselves," said Dantonio. "I think that's what we worked for, we worked to stand alone at the top and we were able to do that today.
"Just a tremendous effort by our football team. We talk about maturity, we talk about focus, we talk about finishing everything that we do and this is a great example of that today. You wonder why I'm so excited, it is so much different. People talk about the 12th game and all this kind of stuff and how to play it, it is so much better when you do it this way. It means so much more to everybody. We will remember this for the rest of our lives, this game, and that's the kind of focus we put on this football game. We wanted to have momentum going into next week, we'll have that. There will be no looking back right now, we'll be able to push through and move on to the next thing.
"Kirk Cousins breaking the (school passing touchdowns) record today, I think 62 touchdown passes, he also broke the record for most 200-yard games. Defense plays tremendously, big plays in the game, huge plays by Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham again and again and again. I guess the turning point in the game was 3-3, they're playing us tough, long drive and a big fumble caused and fumble recovery and then we go down the field on a 97-yard drive with Keshawn making a big catch and Le'Veon (Bell) getting in on the run. Ran the ball effectively, big touchdown after that on a punt return, you know what happened, we answered every time we needed to.
"I thought (offensive coordinator Dan) Roushar did a great job calling the game as well as (defensive coordinator Pat) Narduzzi. I don't know how many sacks we had, but we got after the quarterback, limited the big play and that's what you have to do. P4RB; do you know what that stands for? Play for the Rose Bowl. That's where we're going. We'll take the next step, great challenge next week with whoever we play, but we're in the hunt."
One player Dantonio has been excited about since last spring is Tony Lippett. On Saturday, Lippett showed why Spartan fans are in for a treat the next three seasons.
"Tony played tremendously," said Dantonio. "I think it's his third game he's played full-time as the corner. He's a tremendous athlete, could have come up with a pick possibly, but tackled well, covered well. They had one big play on us, it was just a freshman error basically, but he's a great football player. He's going to be a great player here for another three years. (We have) a lot of guys like that. We have a relatively young team, but you've got to feel for the seniors right now and the things that they've been able to accomplish and the list goes on. Just so happy for them and so happy for everyone involved at Michigan State. Great support by everybody but our players got it done.
After all the off field distractions from a year ago, does Dantonio feel this season's team success is sweeter than last year's?
"Yeah, it is," said Dantonio. "It is because stats show that for every 10 teams that handle adversity like we did last year, only one team can handle success of those 10. Our football team, not only did they go 11-1 last year in the regular season, but we handled it and handled success and now we're 10-2 this year. So we've moved through it by being able to look at what we've done and then build on top of that and continue to play. I've talked a little bit about how the Packers are doing it and we had an opportunity to go up and visit them in the spring, but they just keep putting one foot in front of the other and do it very emphatically I guess, but they just get it done. I think this is a program statement, stacking 10-2 on top off an 11-1 season."
While excited about the youth of his team, Dantonio knows his seniors' making big plays has been a major reason for the team's success.
"Experience means so much to our football team and to our players," the Spartans head coach stressed. "So when you've got guys that have made catches before, have made throws before--that was a rocket, that last touchdown pass by (Kirk) Cousins to B.J. Cunningham. That was on a rope, with pressure in his face, and he stepped up and delivered. That was an NFL throw but that's him. He responded. Our guys, we have great leadership at the ground level and I continue to say that and maybe that's because we work at it so hard. Our seniors lead, our older players play with experience, they not only make plays, but they lead. You see how valuable Keshawn and B.J. are, and Brian Linthicum made a big catch today, so guys were hurt and nicked up and somebody else played for them."
With everything pointing towards the Wildcats posting an upset, Dantonio knows his defense rose to the occasion and stopped a very successful offensive team that posted 370 total offensive yards.
"Well, we're not trying to let them get the yardage," said Dantonio. "But (Dan) Persa's a quality quarterback that can move around in the pocket. When we do have him covered, he can get out of problems. We did manage to sack him, especially I think in the second half, but he's got some good receivers. Without watching the game film, you know things are happening so rapidly at times, it's hard to recall everything, but they are very well tied together schematically, like I say every week and the same thing on defense. They do a great job, they work extremely hard, they'll be going to a bowl game. They were on a four-game win streak and I think they had a lot of momentum. But we wanted to play like big boys today and we came and played."