AUBURN, Ala. — Alex Kozan was fine.
After being taken out of the Saturday night's game midway through the second quarter, the immediate thought was that Auburn's starting left guard was hurt. He was then seen on the sideline working on an exercise bike, with Tunde Fariyike in his place on the left side of the offensive line.
During a postgame interview, however, Kozan set the record straight.
"I was just trying to stay warm," he said. "We were just trying to get Tunde some reps, because you never know in this league what’s going to happen. Anybody can go down, but I was fine. I was just trying to stay warm in case they needed back in there. I was just staying ready to play."
Kozan conceded he "got a little scraped up" during last week's victory against Texas A&M, but said he couldn't allow himself to miss any time.
And how did he grade Fariyike's performance Saturday?
"He’s our backup center, so he hasn’t really played that many reps at guard," Kozan said. "They’re just trying to develop him and develop our backup guards, and for him to come in and not miss a beat, I thought he did very well."
While Kozan didn't have to deal with an injury, the same couldn't be said for Florida Atlantic linebacker Freedom Whitfield. The sophomore made a vicious hit on Chris Davis as Auburn's senior corner fielded a punt with 5:08 to go in the first quarter. Whitfield, however, took the brunt of the hit, falling to the ground and remaining motionless while trainers attended to him.
After a lengthy delay, Whitfield as put onto a stretcher, then taken off the field on a cart.
He was then transported to a local hospital for "precautionary measures." He returned to the field in the fourth quarter wearing a neck brace, walking without difficulty.
Florida Atlantic head coach Carl Pelini was relieved Whitfield was able to rejoin the team Saturday night, but acknowledged the injury was a scary moment for both he and his team.
"I thought he was out cold," he said. "When you first walk up you are not sure if he is out or if he is not moving. When he came to and answered a couple of questions, although incorrectly, he was moving his arms, but he was still pretty out of it."
The play was every bit as difficult to watch for fellow Owl defender Cre'von LeBlanc.
"It shocked a lot of us because Freedom is like a brother to this whole organization," the sophomore defensive back said. "To see one of our brothers go down like that, it could be anybody."