Chandler, Ariz. – When communication junior Dustin Thaler went home for winter break, he never thought he would get to see his beloved Spartans live before next season at Spartan Stadium.
Instead, the Los Angeles native was surprised to receive a ticket to MSU’s showdown with Texas Christian University, or TCU, in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Arizona as a Christmas present.
“It’s not that far to come out here,” Thaler said. “We took a quick one hour flight (from Los Angeles). It was kind of a Christmas gift, so why not?”
More than 250 people were in attendance at the MSU Alumni Association’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Celebration Reception at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort Hotel.
Head Coach Mark Dantonio, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis addressed the crowd of pumped up Spartan fans.
Thaler arrived in Arizona with his mother earlier Friday but it wasn’t until he reached the hotel that he realized how many fans had come to support MSU.
“When we came to this hotel, it was nuts,” he said. “It felt good to be amongst friends, to say the least. I’ll still do every chant and whenever the band is playing, I’ll do it to myself. You’ve got to represent the green. Loud and proud.”
When Dantonio took the podium, the crowd erupted and flash bulbs lit up the room. He was quick to turn the appreciation around on the crowd of MSU faithful from across the country.
“There are so many Spartans from across this country, it amazes me all the time,” Dantonio said. “Our players have had a great time here, and we’re excited about the opportunity and challenge that TCU brings.”
In a season where MSU was ranked in the top 15 and was an early pick to make the Rose Bowl, finishing 6-6 (3-5 Big Ten) this season was somewhat of a disappointment, but Dantonio said they have move on.
“This season started with very high expectations,” he said. “The past two years, we took two giant steps forward and this year, we took a small step backward. We need to be resilient and take the next step, and that’s what 2013 will be all about.”
The football team may be focused on defeating the Horned Frogs, but MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon was more thankful for the crowd, and the support that helped MSU land the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
“No matter where we are, Spartans will care,” Simon said.
She said MSU has an enormous amount of respect not only for their accomplishments on the football field, but their achievements in the world.
“When I opened the Wall Street Journal Today, the Broad Museum was picked as one of the top architectural components for 2012,” she said. “No matter what you do as Spartans, you simply strive to be the best. The art museum, or the football program, you have to strive to be the best.”
For Thaler, a student ticket holder who attended every home game this season, including the Iowa game in which MSU lost in double overtime in the pouring rain, a win against the Horned Frogs would bring a less that impressive season to a positive end.
“A win is a win,” Thalen said. “Hopefully Le’Veon stays one more year, but if this is his last year, it would be nice to go out with a win.”