Generally, pre-bowl game teleconferences a few hours after the pairings are announced yield very little information of substance. But one interesting tidbit to come out of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl call tonight is that MSU coach Mark Dantonio and TCU’s Gary Patterson consider each other good friends.
Their relationship grew while Dantonio was at Cincinnati coaching against Patterson’s Horned Frogs in Conference USA (aside: sure feels like a lifetime ago that those two schools were in that league). They’ve gotten closer, Patterson said, while attending Nike coaching clinics and retreats together over the past few summers.
“We’ve always enjoyed each others’ company out there,” Dantonio said. “He’s a great, great guy and obviously a great football coach.”
Patterson said he has also been able to spend time getting to know Dantonio and his wife, Becky, away from the game.
“I really like him, as far as the kind of man he is and what he stands for,” Patterson said. “It’s gonna be fun being in a bowl game with him. Obviously, you gotta compete in the three hours that night. But outside of that, we’re excited about the opportunity.
“You always like it when you can be in a situation when you’re around friends, where you get a little bit more time around them. As coaches, we never get a chance to do that.”
Dantonio won their lone Conference USA meeting in 2004 – his first year at Cincinnati – 21-10. The Horned Frogs left for the Mountain West Conference the following season.
TCU moved into the Big 12 this season, finishing 7-5 overall and in a four-way tie for fifth in the conference at 4-5. Patterson is well-versed on MSU’s primary weapons and defensive strengths, pointing to running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims as two Spartans whom his own staunch defense must contain.
“We have our hands full, obviously,” the 52-year-old coach in his 12th season at TCU said. “It’s one of the biggest teams we’ll have played this season.”