Auburn coach Gus Malzahn choose his words carefully during his post-game press conference Saturday discussing Deshaun Davis’ ejection for targeting in a 23-16 win over Vanderbilt.
It wasn’t hard to figure out his overall message — he didn’t like the call.
“That was a boom-boom play,” Malzahn said. “It’s getting hard to be able to coach what a good lick is. I don’t know.”
On the field, Malzahn had harsher words for officials labeling the flag “bull crap.”
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Davis was tossed for leading with the crown of his helmet on Vanderbilt wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb to break up a short slant route.
The call left Auburn dangerously thin at the linebacker position with an injury keeping Tre’ Williams (left ankle) out of the lineup.
“We were just about out of linebackers,” Malzahn said.
Auburn’s defense used the call as a rallying cry like it did when Williams was ejected for targeting against LSU earlier this season.
“Every time somebody gets thrown out of the game like that it gets us crunked man, gets us more hyped man,” Auburn linebacker Montavius Atkinson said. “We just ready to play for each other and play for him.”
The lingering frustration for Auburn is the uncertainty as to what actually constitutes targeting.
Replays of Davis’ hit show him lowering his shoulder into Lipscomb and shoving the receiver backwards, but the officials felt Davis was leading with his head.
“I don’t know what targeting is nowadays,” Matthews said. “All I know is we just have to hit low. If the officials feel like it’s targeting, it’s targeting. If it’s not, it’s not. We just got to continue playing football, playing physical and not think about any of that.”