AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn met with reporters following Saturday's game against Alabama, which saw the Tigers shock the Crimson Tide with a touchdown as time expired (courtesy of senior corner Chris Davis) to pull out a 34-28 victory.
A transcript of his comments are provided below, with video from his postgame press conference embedded in this article.
“First of all, I’m very proud of our team. We talked about that we wanted to keep it close, and if we could get it to the fourth quarter playing at home with our crowd we would find a way to win. Second week in a row that we won on a last play sort of thing. Real proud of our team. They’ve gotten better each week. I think we are playing our best, and we beat a very good football team tonight. Very good defensively, very good offensively, very good on special teams and our guys found a way to win. I’m very proud of our team.”
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On final play:
“I didn’t actually see the clocks go down. We haven’t had a whole lot of luck with reviews, anyway, and there was one second on the clock. We thought about going after the block, but I knew I was going to call a timeout, anyway. The wind was going in that direction and their kicker has a good leg. We just made the decision to put Chris (Davis) back there. We got some very good blocks, and he made an unbelievable play at the end to win it.
On Chris Davis’ field goal return for touchdown to win the game:“The first thing I’m looking at is does it have enough distance. I saw it didn’t have enough distance, and my eyes kind of got on Chris (Davis). They had their field goal team out there with a lot of big guys. I thought he made a couple of guys who could tackle miss and made some good blocks and he went down our sideline to score the touchdown.”
On preparing for situations like that in practice:“You talk through situations. During fall camp you go through every situation imaginable. That was really something.”
On ever having a field goal return in a game during coaching career:“No, that was the first. There's a lot of firsts this year.”
On whether this is a 'team of destiny':“You know, the way we won the last two weeks is really unbelievable. Our guys believed and they weathered the storm. They backed us up and I think they missed a field goal and we held them on fourth down. Then the offense steps up, the defense steps up, special teams stepped up and it’s been an amazing year so far. It’s not over with, but it’s a huge win. Our program is going in the right direction and I really like coaching our kids.”
On Nick Marshall’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates to tie the game:“It was getting close. I know it was under a minute and we had a little read-option right there. It was kind of one of those things like, 'Hey, do we throw the football?’ But I just felt like we had a little rhythm, and we felt like we were going to get a little cheap one. The corner kind of came off. We felt like it was close early in the game, and Nick looked at me and said ‘Let’s run the same play.’ He knew what we were thinking and made a great throw. ”
On special teams play:“Real proud of our special teams. They’ve got very good special teams and I thought our guys did really well tonight.”
On playing in the SEC Championship Game next Saturday:“I really didn’t let my mind go there until after I shook the coach’s hand and started thinking that we're going to the SEC Championship Game. It's a lot of fun. That’s what you coach for. That's what these kids play for — to get a chance to win the SEC Championship.”
On Alabama going for it on fourth down:“They were trying to win the game, you know, this is the Iron Bowl. You've got to be aggressive. We went for it on fourth down and one and didn’t get it. They went for it and we stopped it, but that’s just part of it. You know, both of us are trying to win the game. It’s a big game with a lot on the line.”
On senior cornerback Chris Davis:“Chris (Davis) is a champion. He’s one of our seniors, and he’s had his ups and downs. I’m very proud of our seniors overall. Senior day, it’s a memory they will have for the rest of their life, and they have bought in to what we are asking our players to do. We’ve come a long way in 365 days, and those guys are the ones.”
On rushing yardage that Auburn recorded against Alabama’s defense:“First of all, they are a great run defense, but we felt like for us to win we had to run it. Our mind-set was, 'We're going to run the football.' I didn’t want to change anything. I wanted to do what got us here. If they were good enough to stop it, so be it, but that’s what we are good at. We were able to run the football effectively, and once we got the pace going and kind of wore them down. But they are very good run defense.”
On offense picking up tempo and running the football effectively:“Well, we got the pace going. We got that initial first down, and got our rhythm going. We’re a rhythm offense, and when we’re clicking you know, we can run the football effectively.”
On talking to Chris Davis during postgame:“You know I don't think I've seen Chris. It was hysteria out there, and I was just trying to get back in the dressing room.”
On Auburn fans:“We’ve got the best fans in college football, and they are in it with us. We’re all in this thing together. That’s the great thing about Auburn, and I’m just happy for them, our players and our program.”
On Chris Davis becoming a part of the return game:“He did, and of course I said, 'No, just worry about playing defensive back.' And then he went to the special teams coach, Coach Tim Horton, and they talked me into it. It was a really good decision.”
On team’s performance against Alabama after last season’s loss:“Especially against the No. 1 team in the country. They beat us 49-0 last year. It says a lot about our kids.”
On this season’s turn-around and becoming a part of the BCS Championship discussion:“You know, all I know is that we beat the No. 1 team in the country today, and we're going to the SEC Championship Game. We’re going to focus on that game, and we'll let everybody else worry about the other stuff.”
On Tre Mason’s fumble in the first half:“I wasn’t really happy with him. We talked about protecting the football, and we didn’t get it done. He’s one of our guys, I mean he helped us get here. We were disappointed, he was disappointed and we jumped on his tail and he got back in there and made up for it.”
On Alabama’s decision to kick the field goal with a second left in the game:“You know, not really. The wind was really gusting down there. They were trying to win the game, so no, I wasn’t surprised.”
On safety Ryan Smith:“Another senior that had a lot of ups and downs. He was all over the place. He wanted this game, as all of our seniors did. He played his tail off. I knew our kids were going to play hard. I knew we were going to play our guts out.”
On Alabama converting only converting on third down four out of 13 times:“You're talking about one of the better quarterbacks in the country on the other side, and we felt like we had to make him uncomfortable. We felt like we put enough pressure on him.”
On Alabama’s 99-yard passing touchdown in the fourth quarter:“You’re disappointed when they score, but you just look your guys in the eye and tell them to find another way to score and get it done. Like I said, we talked all week about getting to the fourth quarter, we're going to find a way to win. Our guys completely believed that and nobody was panicking on the sideline. We just moved on. We talk a lot about weathering the storm and we weathered the storm and found a way to win.”
On offense’s success during second half:“We had a little success right there and had a little rhythm. I know it was getting close to under a minute and you start to wonder if you should throw it or keep running. Nick gave me that look like we needed to run that play again. They gave us a look and their corner kind of cheated up and we ran it and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
On where this win stacks up in Malzahn’s career:“I’ve got a lot of emotion right now. You know, it ranks up there, there's no doubt. I'll probably be able to answer that better tomorrow. Huge win against our rival to go to the SEC Championship playing at home in front of our fans. ... Probably so. I’m going to say probably so.”
On Auburn’s turn-around:“Yeah, it’s indeed a new day, no doubt.”
On Chris Davis and senior class:“I’m proud of him, and I love him. I’m thankful that he and the seniors bought into what we were trying to do and our vision. I’m just proud of them.”
On Auburn’s 11-1 record and SEC West Championship:“It’s a tribute to our players. It’s hard to do. It's hard to find ways to win when the pressure is on. There was unbelievable pressure out there. I think everybody understands that, especially with how much this game means. Our guys found a way.”