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Auburn not worrying about temptations of New Orleans on Sugar Bowl trip

Baker Mayfield: Oklahoma has to take care of Auburn's defensive front to win

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield addressed the challenges he expects from Auburn's defense in previewing the Sugar Bowl Friday, Dec. 30, 2016.
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Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield addressed the challenges he expects from Auburn's defense in previewing the Sugar Bowl Friday, Dec. 30, 2016.

If Auburn coaches want a cautionary tale about strict curfew rules in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, all they have to do is look back 45 years.

Coach Shug Jordan put a 10:30 p.m. curfew in place for the 1972 Sugar Bowl aimed at keeping his team on task.

Oklahoma had a vastly different plan in place.

“Oklahoma got there 10 days before the game and didn’t have curfew,” Rusty Fuller said. “I didn’t see Bourbon Street until after the ballgame. I think Oklahoma had been on Bourbon Street a week. They got to see some of the local watering holes long before we did, and they beat our brains out (40-22). I’m not sure which one of us had a better pregame routine (laughing).”

The current Auburn team is taking a middle-of-the-road approach as it prepares for the second meeting between the programs.

According to players, they had a midnight curfew for the first few days of the trip, allowing them some time each night to explore the city.

Coach Gus Malzahn downplayed any concern about his team getting into trouble during their six-night stay on Canal Street.

“Our guys, I really expect them to handle themselves responsibly,” Malzahn said. “They’ve done that since I’ve been the head coach. This group has great leadership. I really have a lot of trust in them, but there will be a curfew, and they’ll be ready to practice come the mornings.”

Auburn players appreciate the coaching staff’s trust.

“You have to have a balance,” Auburn offensive lineman Alex Kozan said. “You don’t want it to be a like a military camp or something like that. You have to have a little fun and enjoy the bowl trip.”

Kozan, who is on his fourth bowl trip, is one of the seniors making sure younger players understand the importance of making the “right decisions.”

“You don’t want to lock yourself in your room the whole time, but at the same time you have to know why you’re here,” Kozan said. “That’s part of being a man, that’s part of growing up — realizing what your priorities are what your responsibilities are and around that being able to do the things you want to do and be responsible. That’s the biggest thing I stressed to the younger guys, especially, with their first or second bowl trip.”

Local police officers gave both teams a presentation at their respective team hotels upon their arrival Tuesday to educate them on the city, pointing out popular areas as well as spots to avoid.

Linebacker Deshaun Davis has helped with that education as a Prichard, Alabama native who grew up two hours from New Orleans.

“They ask me a lot of questions because I’ve been here a while,” Davis said. “I’m the tour guide.”

What’s on the tour? Davis isn’t saying.

“That will take a while, and I’ve got to show you a few places,” Davis said with a smile when pressed for details.

Defensive back Josh Holsey had a hard time even answering what was the craziest scene he witnessed through three days in the city.

“That’s tough, I’ve got to think about that,” Holsey said laughing. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy things. It’s been a lot of crazy. Oh, man, I’ve got to think on that because it’s a real lot.”

While the adventures Auburn players have in New Orleans might go unshared, they didn’t hide their appreciation for the experience.

“It’s been great,” Holsey said. “New Orleans is a great city. This whole time, the whole Sugar Bowl atmosphere just has been great.

“They’ve been showing us a lot of love.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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