2017 Allstate Sugar Bowl
Auburn Post Game Press Conference
COACH GUS MALZAHN: First of all, obviously, it was a tough loss. And I’m disappointed for our players. I’m disappointed for our fans and especially the seniors. This group of seniors showed great leadership their whole career, this year especially getting us to this game. You know, real tough for them.
Looking at the game, the first half, I thought at times we played well. What stands out to me, we had a couple of uncharacteristic penalties. They had a couple of big third‑down conversions. Our starting quarterback got hurt.
Second half, I really think the key to the game was the third quarter. That’s when they distanced themselves from us. Offense had some three‑and‑outs. Their offense had a couple big drives. But, overall, it’s a very tough loss. I’m proud of our seniors. We have got a bunch of guys back. We’ve got a bunch of young guys that will learn from this experience, and the future is bright in that locker room.
Q. Coach, can you go over the injuries. Tonight, specifically, Sean [White], John [Franklin], and why Rudy Ford didn’t play tonight?
COACH MALZAHN: First of all, Sean White, he broke his forearm. I think it happened earlier in the game. He thought he just pulled something. He thought he could do it. And obviously, there’s a couple of throws that we kind of questioned and finally got him out and he got it X‑rayed.
John Franklin had a similar situation. I don’t think it’s broke, but something in his forearm. I think he got hit. He had trouble gripping the ball. And, when he was trying to throw in warm up, it would cramp up on him.
Rudy Ford, he tried to practice and get to play. And just two days ago, he tried to practice and said, “Coach, I just can’t go.” That’s a big blow for us. Obviously, he is one of our impact players.
Q. Third quarter, fourth down and inches, you called time out. Looked like you thought about going. Talk about that situation.
COACH MALZAHN: It seemed like the look. They had everybody up. I just felt at that time we could flip the field. And I really felt we were going to hold them. We didn’t. And, obviously, you know, our punter just made a great ‑‑ Kevin Phillips really flipped the field at the 15‑yard line. And they drove the field and scored a touchdown.
Q. How would you describe this season?
COACH MALZAHN: You know, obviously, right now, I’ve got a locker room full of disappointed players. But I think we were picked last or next to last in the SEC. We played a very tough schedule. We had some tough injuries. I guess probably the best way is we overcame a lot of obstacles to get here. We are disappointed we didn’t win. Give those guys credit. They played a very good game. The future is very bright. We’re losing some great leadership, but we have got a bunch of talented young guys.
Q. It looked like they had their safeties up, messing with your running game a lot. Was there nothing you could do about that?
COACH MALZAHN: You’re exactly right. Sean ‑‑ we had a couple that we tried to get over the top. We didn’t know his arm was broke at the time. We thought it just was something ‑‑ and then John had a chance to get them over the top, and that’s when he kind of had the issue with his arm, too. So you’re exactly right.
Q. And, physically, it looked like Oklahoma, second half really got tougher.
COACH MALZAHN: Yeah. The second half, they definitely took it to us. There’s no doubt about that.
Q. This question is for you, Josh. We talk about pride of the game, about how elusive (Baker) Mayfield was. Do you think when you got out there, he was even more difficult to corral than you expected?
DB JOSHUA HOLSEY: Yeah, he was really a good player, and he kind of helped them withstand a lot of plays. Just couldn’t hold on to him. He was escaping a lot of pressure, withstood a lot of pressure, but he just found a way to get up out of it. Like I said, he was a great player. He did his job, and he helped those guys extend those plays. And they found a way to get those third downs, which we need to get off the field on. But he is a great player, and you have to take your hats off to what he did tonight.
Q. Coach, did you feel like at all, after you guys waited to get Sean (White) back healthy, that when he went out again, did that kind of dampen the team’s spirits just a little bit, like we’re trying to get him back and he is out again?
COACH MALZAHN: You know, obviously, it’s a big blow. We were excited that he was back. But John, we felt like he could be efficient running the offense. And then he had his arm issue. Overall, it was a tough night at the quarterback position.
Q. For both of the players, you guys have been here now for so long. And you have had these ups and downs. How would you guys sum up this season and also just the last, you know, four or five years, for both of you?
OL ALEX KOZAN: I mean, this season, we battled through adversity. We had ups and downs. Started 1‑2, made it to the Sugar Bowl. Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. But I tell you that no one on our team is a quitter, which I don’t think you can say about a ton of teams.
We fought through. Everybody was together. So life doesn’t always go your way. You have to keep on battling.
DB JOSHUA HOLSEY: And just to piggyback on what you said, everybody kind of saw it early in the season. We had a lot of team meetings by ourselves without the coaches. And we kind of just told each other that we’re going to keep fighting.
They have got a bright bunch in that locker room, and they’re going to be great. They have got a lot of leaders coming back. They’ve got a lot of guys coming back. The future is going to be bright for us. But we didn’t finish the season how we wanted to. Of course, you always want to get that W. But sometimes, like Coach said, life doesn’t always go your way.
But I wouldn’t trade this team for the world. If I had to do it again, I would definitely do it again with those guys. Because there’s a bunch of winners in that locker room. And I’m sure you will see that next year.
Q. Josh, you shut them out in the first quarter, which is something nobody had been able to do in Oklahoma all year. How tough, though, is it to maintain that level of defense against a team with so many weapons as Oklahoma? And specifically, that 4th and 4 play they converted with the long pass to Westbrook. How much of a difference did that make, you feel like in the middle of the game?
DB JOSHUA HOLSEY: That’s tough. That offense ‑‑ they’re third in the nation, second in the nation, whatever it was in offense. And there’s a reason for that. You know, 6 (Baker Mayfield) and 11 (Dede Westbrook) are great players. You know what I mean? They came out and showed that tonight. I feel like, they kind of flipped the field. And we kind of put ourselves in a bind when we gave up that 3rd and 34, 24, something like that. So, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot on that one. I felt like we would have gone up the field on that, our offense would have went down and scored and it would have been a new ball game. But it’s tough to go out there and keep fighting like that for the entire game.
But, like I said, we fought through. We just didn’t make the plays that we needed to make at the times that we needed to make them.
Q. Josh, it looked like you and Joe Mixon were jawing at each other a little bit at the end of the first half. What happened and what were you saying back to each other?
DB JOSHUA HOLSEY: It was just friendly competition. Everybody is out there competing. Everybody is out there fighting. I just like to talk a little crap, just to make the game a little more fun. It’s no fun when everybody is out there quiet. It was just a little friendly competition. He is a great guy. He had a great game out there, but it wasn’t that serious like that.