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December 2, 2017

Kirby Smart

Nick Chubb

Roquan Smith

Atlanta, Georgia

Georgia - 28, Auburn - 7

THE MODERATOR: We now joined by the SEC Champion Georgia Bulldogs, Head Coach Kirby Smart, Nick Chubb, and MVP Roquan Smith.

KIRBY SMART: I'd first like to kind of reiterate what I said the other day. It's been a very special privilege to be part of the SEC Championship Game. I've always said it's one of the greatest events in all of college sports. It's a special opportunity to bring a young team into this environment.

I also want to say a special thanks to our seniors. These guys, incredible leaders from day one, bought in. I know how much it meant for these guys to be in this game. I know how excited they are to play again against whoever, whenever. They enjoy being together, and I always say chemistry outweighs competence. They've always been a privilege for us to be around.

But our goal today was to come out and compete. We stressed two words the entire week. We tried to keep it really simple: composure and physicality. It was a physical, tough game. We kept our composure for the most part. We had some moments in there. Nothing worth having comes easy in this game.

These guys certainly earned this honor and this distinction of being SEC champs. With that, I'll open it up.

Q. Should you be No. 1? You all have beaten everybody you played?
KIRBY SMART: That's a bold statement. I'll be honest, this team, since there is no home field advantage, they're excited to be in the playoff. Hopefully be in the playoff. We don't concern ourselves with rankings. We never have. What does it really matter? If you're 1 through 4, you're in the tournament. That was our goal, and that's what we've achieved.

Q. Coach, how much does it mean to you to bring a championship back to your alma mater?
KIRBY SMART: It's special. I'll tell you what's special to me -- bringing it back to my alma mater is great. I was very fortunate to get a coach on the team that won one in 2001. But to see Nick Jeffs, Sony Michel, Roquan Smith, hugging on the stage in tears because they care about each other so much. That's why I do this. It's because of these guys. It's great to bring it back to Georgia, and the Bulldog Nation is certainly starved, but these young men deserve a ton of credit.

Q. It was kind of frustrating at first, couldn't get in the end zone as much as he wanted it to. Looked like you just kept chopping in the second quarter, switched the momentum around and really looked like the offensive continuity picked up from then on.
KIRBY SMART: Yeah. I thought Jim did a great job. We played good defense. Sometimes you have to settle for field goals. There was a couple times there I know we'd like to cash it in. We tried to go quick snap them one time and didn't get the yards we thought they would.

At the end of the day, man, those guys on offensive line and those backs, that's a good defense now. They were physical. We were able to run the ball better this time than last time.

Q. What's your description of the difference in feeling for you, Coach, now as the head coach as opposed to an assistant who's been in this position before?
KIRBY SMART: I don't know. They're both so gratifying because the players. It's just about them. All those ones I won at Alabama and here, they felt awesome too because it's hard to do. This one feels the same way. You know, it's just the psychological stamina it takes to win an SEC Championship. I don't think people really realize what you go through the entire year -- going on the road, playing these intense games.

I thought it was hilarious Bo Jackson came up to me before the game. He's my childhood idol. I worshipped Bo Jackson. I had Bo Jackson posters, baseball cards. I had over 300 baseball cards of Bo Jackson.

He comes up to me before the game and said, "A lot of pressure in this job, isn't it?"

I said, "Hell yeah, it is."

But that's why we do it for moments like this. All that work for moments like this for these guys to enjoy.

Q. Roquan, they scored on you on the first drive, after you come up with that fumble recovery, it seemed like the momentum changed with you guys defensively getting after them. What did change after that turnover?
ROQUAN SMITH: Coach said always keep your composure. We knew they would make plays. They're in the SEC. We knew they would make plays, and they did that on the first drive. But we just had to keep our composure and keep fighting back and keep chopping. That's what it was.

Q. Kirby, kind of going off of that question, just how proud are you of the defensive effort, especially after that first drive when Auburn went down and scored?
KIRBY SMART: Auburn's a hard team to play. I've got a lot of experience playing that offense. I don't think I've ever had a game where you started out in gang busters. They've got a script, they sub, they change, they go fast. They do a great job using their skill set. Usually, you can make some adjustments, figure things out, try to confuse the quarterback.

And just be honest, Kerryon was not 100 percent. He wasn't the same guy he was last game, so that probably helped some as well. We felt getting after the quarterback was the way to beat them, and we did that much better this game than we did the last game.

Q. Nick, the first time you guys played them, they really shut down the run game. What was the difference today that made you so successful at it?
NICK CHUBB: Just the preparation coming into the game. We kind of had the motivation from last game just not being as successful as we wanted to. We just put it in our minds this offense, like, no one should be able to stop it. We had a great offensive line. We have so many talented backs, and the play calling all came together and worked out for us.

Q. Kirby, I guess we'll find out tomorrow who you play in the first round of the playoff. How long do you get to enjoy this win before you start focusing on the next opponent?
KIRBY SMART: What time's that show tomorrow? 12:30 or something? I don't know what that is. A little over 12 hours. I'll tell you what, you'd better enjoy it. It's well earned.

We've got a beat up football team. We've got a tired football team. Nobody really talked about it. Malkom Parrish had an injury this week and didn't get to play. There was guys beat up out there that kept pushing through. We almost lost John Atkins.

So we've got to get to healthy and find out who it is. Regardless, I've been through this before. They're all good teams. There's a reason we're there.

Q. Nick, you've spoken a lot over the last few weeks about what it meant to come back, and this is what you came back for. Could you just talk about your emotions in the last few minutes of the game when you -- when it was obviously secure, and what you thought after the game when the confetti fell and everything.
NICK CHUBB: It's just crazy, man. Just unbelievable experience. This is why the guys came back for it. I remember just talking to the senior class, I mean, back at camp, we'd be in the room with a little private meeting, and we just talked about what we want to do, and it all paid off. This moment right here, this is what we worked for.

Q. Coach, since you brought up injuries, what, if anything, can you tell us about Sony Michel right now?
KIRBY SMART: He's okay. We're not real sure. He's getting an MRI done on his knee. It was bothering him a little bit. I'm not sure if he got hit on it or twisted it. I don't know much information right now. We're still gathering some.

Q. To Nick and Roquan, can you remember the first time that Coach Smart really impressed you and you realized that he was a guy who had the capability of leading you guys to this moment right now?
NICK CHUBB: Yeah, I remember. Happy the first day he came and spoke to us. He was busy with Alabama winning the championship, and he came in, and he just looked exhausted. We're like, man, what's this man been up to?

Just over the years getting to know him, every day he puts his all into it. He's very intense. He loves the team. And he's just a great guy. I'm happy to be able to play for him.

ROQUAN SMITH: I would say the same thing. Piggy-backing off of that, the first time he came up to the meeting and then especially like the first practice we had, and just knowing the way he carried himself, high energy, and just the things he says, and he actually backs it up with his actions. It is what it is. He's an awesome guy, as you guys can see, and he knows what he's doing.

Q. Can you talk about Jake Fromm and just his game today? Just a true freshman coming into this game and playing against a tough defense, like you said, and having a better performance than last time?
KIRBY SMART: I don't think enough can be said about the response he had. He makes a lot of decisions to put these guys in the right play. He really runs the offense efficiently. He made some throws -- I don't even know what his numbers are were. 16 of 22, there you go. That's pretty good numbers for a freshman in an SEC Championship.

You're right. That is a really physical, tough defense. I thought Coach Chaney and the offensive staff did a tremendous job of putting him in plays to be successful and using our backs, which we know is our strength. And Jake is kind of the mailman. He's the deliverer of the package. He does a good job of that.

Q. Roquan, you've had many outstanding games, but today was really exceptional. What inspired you today for such a great performance?
ROQUAN SMITH: First off, I'll just give glory to God for it. And then just my teammates, them taking on blocks, and just then my coaches' preparation just setting me up to be in the right place at the right time and just seeing ball, hit ball, or give ball. It's pretty much give all the credit to them because those guys did a lot of what made me be able to do what I was actually doing throughout the game.

Q. Roquan, you had the two fumble recoveries today, but particularly the one, I think, at the start of the second quarter. Did you get a sense of how big that moment was when they were up 7-0 and getting ready to go down and score again?
ROQUAN SMITH: You never try to make the moment too big or anything like that. All I remember is seeing one of my guys hit the ball, and I just seen the ball on the ground. It took me back to practice, you know, scoop drills. I just scooped the ball and said, let me get what I can get.

Q. Nick, what did you think of D'Andre Swift broke that 64-yard run coming down like that? I guess he kept you on your toes all year? It was a big one, kind of put the nail in the coffin, I think.
NICK CHUBB: It was. We kind of give him a little trouble. We tell him he needs to break away, and he was picking his knees up, man. He was moving on that. We're proud of him. He's a great running back.

Q. Nick, your thoughts and reactions to becoming the number two all-time SEC rusher?
NICK CHUBB: Just a blessing. Just a lot of hard work around. It's the whole team. Coaches and our great blocking up front. I feel like it's a team award, a team honor.

Q. Kirby, you were asked about this a little bit yesterday, but to win the first SEC Championship, to have Georgia do it in this building, is there any extra special meaning to that?
KIRBY SMART: I think our fan base and the state and the people around the university is certainly a prideful thing to be in this beautiful stadium.

Dan Quinn called me and said he already painted all the seats red and black for us. So he had it loosened up.

Yeah, I think the first one here, and you certainly hope to be able to get back to this place and make this a home for us.

Q. Kirby, one more question about the defense. Gus said you guys just did a much better job with your run fits today. From your coaching perspective, did your players just do a better job fighting off blocks than they did a few weeks ago, or were they just more -- expect more about where the play was coming?
KIRBY SMART: I would probably have to watch the tape to say that honestly. I would like to say we got off blocks much better because the result was better, but I don't honestly know. I thought that they still had some success. When they ran some of the same plays they ran last time, they still got three and four yards because of how physical they are.

The big difference was, number one, the back wasn't running as hard and as much, but I thought we kept our edges, and there weren't those 15, 20 yard runs. There were the three, four kind. And we kept them behind the sticks.

We felt really good about our third down plan. But the key with Auburn is getting them to third down. If we got them to third down, we felt like we could get them off the field. What did they end up third down? I felt like we played that part good, and it was a big part for us.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen. Congratulations.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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