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Auburn safety Tray Matthews regrets ‘selfish’ penalty

Auburn safety Tray Matthews waits for the snap against Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn safety Tray Matthews waits for the snap against Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Clemson wide receiver Artavis Scott had a few choice words for Tray Matthews as he lingered over the safety at the end of a play late in Saturday’s game. Matthews was still on the ground after forcing Scott out of bounds to set up a third-and-five with Auburn trailing 13-6.

When Matthews stood up, the junior gave Scott a one-handed shove right in front of an official.

The 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct gave Clemson the ball at Auburn’s 7-yard line. Three play later quarterback Deshaun Watson hit Hunter Renfrow in the end zone to put their team up two scores.

A contrite Matthews apologized Monday night for what he called “selfish” actions.

“I regret it,” Matthews said. “It was selfish. I just let my emotions get the best of me. It’s just got to move on from. It won’t happen again. It’s just that simple.”

After multiple conversations with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, Matthews assured his teammates it will “never happen again.” Steele didn’t share what he said to Matthews, but made it clear he got his point across.

“Do you have children? You can imagine,” Steele said.

The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was one of the few mistakes in an otherwise solid day of work put in by Auburn’s secondary.

Steele praised his starting safeties all-around effort multiple times during a lengthy meeting with the media Monday.

“We didn’t get the top knocked off the coverage,” Steele said. “They played the run very well when they were asked to get down in the box. They communicated well. We had no major busts in the secondary. None. And that’s hard to do particularly with the multiplicity of formations and motions you have. Those guys are in charge of that. They are the quarterbacks back there.”

With safety Stephen Roberts suspended, Matthews started alongside Nick Ruffin. Matthews, who finished the game with nine tackles (eight solo), isn’t sure if Roberts will be back next week, but hopes to build off the defense’s impressive week one performance.

“There’s a lot of momentum,” Matthews said. “We’ll bring that into the next game. That’s the one thing I like about it, coming into a pretty solid game. We’ll bring that confidence into the next game and the next game. It’s a great feeling. I can tell you that much.”