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December 2, 2017

Gus Malzahn

Jarrett Stidham

Tray Matthews

Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia - 28, Auburn - 7

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, and safety Tray Matthews.

GUS MALZAHN: First of all, I'd like to congratulate Georgia on their victory. They've got a very good team. They flipped the script on us from the last game, did exactly what we did the first game.

Obviously, it was a tough loss. We got off to a tough start. Then we had some uncharacteristic things happen. We played really good football the second half of the season. We had a blocked field goal and two turnovers there that were really tough.

Overall, I'm very proud of our team to get here. Obviously, we're hurting right now. Got a bunch of hurting coaches and players in the locker room, but I will tell you, though, even though it's tough right now, the future's very bright, and I'm proud of our team getting us to this point.

But congratulations to Georgia. They were better than us. They outplayed us and outcoached us, and that starts with me.

Q. This would be for Tray. Obviously, this game was very close going into the second half. Did they do something differently on offense that caused you guys to have problems in the second half?
TRAY MATTHEWS: They didn't really do too much, anything different than they did the first time. They just ran a little more on the perimeter. They just physically whipped us up front. And the stats so far, they had like 200-some rushing yards, which they didn't have that the first time. If your team rushes for 200 yards, you're going to win the game. So that's what happened.

Q. If you could comment on that first turnover of the game, and how critical do you think that was?
GUS MALZAHN: Any time you're playing a Championship Game, turnovers are critical. Not just that one, but the other one. And the blocked field goal was big at the time. It was a very close game. Blocked field goal is like a turnover. We were fighting over here because of those situations.

Q. Gus, how healthy was Kerryon, and how limited was he, and how careful were you in your use of it?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, KJ, first of all, I can't say enough about how tough he is and the guts he has. He was banged up. He had some rib issues. He had a shoulder issue. We didn't really know if he was going to play. He did a little bit of stuff in practice, but he was very, very limited.

Pregame, as the adrenaline got going, he felt he could go. He gave us all he had. You could see it wasn't 100 percent. But he helped get us here, and he's a great player.

Q. To any of you guys, with all the flags that were flagged, particularly in the second and third quarters here, did that disrupt the flow of the game for both teams really?
GUS MALZAHN: We were the most disciplined team with the number of penalties coming into the game. We had some uncharacteristic penalties, but like I said, you've got to give those guys credit forcing some of them.

Q. This is for Jarrett. Do you think that the fact that you played this team just three weeks ago, did that have any effect on what happened today? Is it hard to get up? Well, with Alabama thrown in a third straight time.
JARRETT STIDHAM: No, sir. This is exactly what our goals were at the beginning of the year, to play in the SEC Championship. It wasn't hard to get up for this team at all. We were all really, really excited players-wise, coaching staff-wise. Everybody was really excited for this game. Just didn't go our way tonight.

Q. Gus, you mentioned the future is bright for Auburn. I realize the game is very fresh here, but do you intend to have your future at Auburn?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, I'm happy at Auburn. We have great players. I love my players. As I said before this game, we worked extremely hard to get here to this point, and we've got a very good foundation built, and I think the best is yet to come.

Q. Does that mean Arkansas should not bother asking you?
GUS MALZAHN: I'm the head coach at Auburn, and I just said I want to be the head coach at Auburn.

Q. And you will be next year?
GUS MALZAHN: I want to be.

Q. In terms of game plan, did Georgia alter anything from three weeks ago?
GUS MALZAHN: Obviously, we felt like they would really work hard to stop the run, and they brought an extra guy down. They played a whole lot of single high. We felt like that would happen. We started out, tried to get the ball on the perimeter, throw some short passes to get us on pace to throw the football. We also tried big set runs because of the odd front.

They did a lot better job with the run fits. We figured they would.

Like I said, I lot of it was just we had trouble getting in a rhythm probably after the first quarter and a half.

Q. Hi, this is for Jarrett. You completed your first eight passes tonight, but after that, they seemed to come after you a different way. What kind of different looks were they throwing at you to kind of disrupt that rhythm you had personally?
JARRETT STIDHAM: They did a great job of bringing a lot of different looks, switching up the coverages, blitzes, fronts, I mean, everything. They did a great job tonight of switching it up and causing a little bit of havoc. It is what it is. We just didn't execute when we should have.

Q. Carlton Davis and Tray Matthews didn't play in the first half. Did they get hurt in the second quarter? Tre' Williams, I'm sorry.
GUS MALZAHN: Neither one could finish. They did have some injuries, and they couldn't finish.

Q. Coach, as well as Jarrett and Tray, if you could comment on the run that you guys went on after the LSU game to get here.
GUS MALZAHN: I'll start out. Of course, like I said, very few teams could do what this team did. It was a very tough moment in LSU. We had to rally. We had to circle the wagons. These two, along with their teammates, got it done. I'm not sure very many teams could have done that.

We had a huge emotional win against Georgia the first time, against Alabama the second time to get us here. Today we didn't get it done, but it's unbelievable what they did to get us here.

THE MODERATOR: Tray, would you like to comment on that?

TRAY MATTHEWS: Coach Malzahn basically said everything that needed to be said. We went on a great run. We had a lot of leadership from our quarterback right here and myself, as well as a lot our teammates. Our backs were against the wall, and we had to do what we had to do. Of course, we didn't finish it out here.

Like Coach said earlier, it will be a lot to look forward to in the future.


JARRETT STIDHAM: I think it's something to be really proud of regardless of the outcome of tonight. You know, losing to LSU that way and coming back and winning five straight and beating two No. 1s in three weeks and setting ourselves up for an SEC Championship, I think that's a lot to be proud of. Like you said, we didn't finish it, but it's still a lot to build off of.

Q. I wanted to ask about Kam Martin. He played some and didn't come back. Did he hurt his ankle again?
GUS MALZAHN: Kam Martin did a solid job for us. I thought Malik Miller did also. Our plan was, if KJ couldn't go, we were going to run those two guys, and we had a plan for them. After KJ kind of got dinged up and we could see that he wasn't quite 100 percent, that was our plan.

Q. Coach, you guys just played basically a de facto game to get in the playoffs. Alabama is still in the mix. With all the new coaching changes, what do you see for the future of this league?
GUS MALZAHN: It's the best league in college football. I mean, you're talking about Alabama, Georgia, and of course then I'd throw us in there. I think it's a really good league. I think the future is very bright in our league.

Like I said, I think our future is very bright. I believe we're going to be back. I wouldn't be surprised if we're back in this moment next year.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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