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December 3, 2017
Draft only, for review
MATT GARVEY: All right. I'd like to welcome everybody to the media teleconference for the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. My name is Matt Garvey. I'm the Vice President of Communications for the Bowl. We'd like to welcome everyone to the 50th Anniversary Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Thanks for being with us on the call.
On the call this afternoon, we have Gary Stokan, the President and CEO of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. We have Gus Malzahn, head coach of the Auburn Tigers. And as a note, the interim head coach for UCF Troy Walters is also on the call. For the media, Scott Frost is still planning to coach in the ball game. However, he had obligations in Nebraska at this time and is unable to be available for the call during this window. So Coach Walters is going to take over for him in his absence.
We're going to go ahead and take some opening comments here. I'll first introduce Gary Stokan to do the official invitations. Gary?
GARY STOKAN: Gus and Troy, congratulations on a wonderful season. It's my pleasure to officially welcome the Auburn Tigers, seventh ranked, and in college football history, I believe, the only team to beat two No. 1s in the same season. And No. 12 ranked UCF, who's the only undefeated team still in college football to play in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl to be played January 1st at 12:30 in the Mercedes Benz Stadium.
We're certainly honored to host this matchup featuring the SEC West Division champ and SEC runner-up against the undefeated champs of the American Athletic Conference.
Bowls are a reward for the players. Everything we do as a staff, we do for the good of the players and for the fans. We have a theme we use, which is live, laugh, and learn. We want to provide the best Bowl class experience for the teams, the players, and the fans as a reward.
To have UCF, who's No. 1 in scoring in the country, and Auburn top ten defense in scoring, it's going to be a tremendous matchup. We have less than 2,000 tickets left. We're certain to have another sell-out at the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and an awesome experience in the new Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Gus and Troy, congratulations to you, your team. We look forward to hosting you and your families and your team and all the administration to the city of Atlanta in the 50th anniversary of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
MATT GARVEY: Thanks very much, Gary. After the opening statements from the head coaches, we'll take questions from the media.
At this time, we'll take an opening statement and comments from Coach Malzahn.
GUS MALZAHN: First of all, we're extremely excited to play in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl 50th anniversary. Atlanta is just right up the road, and we've got a lot of fans that live in Atlanta. That's kind of been a home away from home. Excited to return back there.
The stadium is unbelievable. And then to get a chance to play the best offense in college football and the only undefeated team in college football left, I think its' a big honor for us. I know our players, our fans, and our coaches will be excited and looking forward to it.
MATT GARVEY: Coach Walters, we'll take your opening statement and comments now, please.
TROY WALTERS: We too are excited to be playing in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl 50th anniversary. We accept the invitation. When our players found out today we would be playing in that game and playing Auburn, they were excited. It's been a wonderful season, a magical season, and we look forward to playing a great Auburn team there in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
The guys are going to prepare, and we just look forward to everything that the bowl represents and the opportunity to play there in Atlanta.
MATT GARVEY: Thanks for that, Coach. Members, media, if you'd like to ask a question, we're going to open that up now.
Q. Troy, I was wondering whether -- how you thought this was going to work with Coach Frost wanting to coach the guys in the Bowl game. How will the next few weeks go? And do you worry that it will be a little haphazard or a distraction or anything like that?
TROY WALTERS: We're still working through the logistics. Coach Frost is a part of this team. He's done a great job in the two years he's been here. He's part of this family. So we're still working through the logistics on how everything's going to work out.
But I think the players want him to be a part of this. We want to finish what we started. So we'll just kind of see how it plays out over the coming weeks.
Q. Gus, I know yesterday you said you wanted to be at Auburn. I've been told that Arkansas wants to make a decision on its coach very, very quickly. Have you heard anything from them since yesterday? And what's your status, if any, discussions you've had with Auburn since last night?
GUS MALZAHN: I'm planning on being at Auburn. I told you last night that's where I wanted to be, and nothing's changed.
Q. Hey, Troy, I was just wondering how are the players taking this change? And how do you see going forward from their perspective? How have they accepted this?
TROY WALTERS: They understand what Coach Frost has done for this program. They love him to death. They understand that it was one of the toughest decisions he had to make because he cares so much about the players. He's poured his life, his heart into these players the past two years, and they know it was a difficult decision, as he addressed the team last night. It was one of the toughest things he's done.
We've got a great group of players, resilient. They're not going to let anything get in the way of them going out and winning this game and ending 13-0. They're focused -- they've been focused all year. They've been able to put distractions out of the way and been able to focus on the opponent at hand, and I don't see it being any different.
They love Coach Frost. They know he had to make a tough decision, but they're focused, and our focus is on this upcoming game against Auburn.
Q. Then how about for you? Obviously, a coaching search going on. You're the interim head coach. How do you feel about the whole thing?
TROY WALTERS: I'm focused on this upcoming game. I take it day by day. And right now my job is to make sure that everything is going in the right direction, that the players are doing what they're supposed to do, and I take that seriously. And I'm honored to be the interim coach.
Whatever happens down the line, it's out of my hands. All I can do is prepare the guys right now so that we can go out there January 1st and be prepared to play a good football team and play a good football game.
Q. Are you a candidate for the head coaching job?
TROY WALTERS: Hope so. I love it here. My family loves it here. I know I have total trust in Danny White and the administration that they'll select the right guy for this program. So we'll see what happens.
Q. This is for Gus. I know you've continued to say you plan on being the coach at Auburn next season. Obviously, there's no top seat talks. I'm wondering, when you say hope, are there things you're wanting to get settled with Auburn as far as your contract discussions? How are things going along right now?
GUS MALZAHN: Brandon, like I just said, I'm planning on being here at Auburn, and that's where I want to be.
Q. Has Auburn -- have you talked to Auburn yet or have they officially talked to you yet about your contract and trying to work something out?
GUS MALZAHN: Nothing's changed since last night.
MATT GARVEY: For members of the media, I think we have more than covered the coaching scenarios for the two coaches. If possible, I'd like to focus the questions on the matchup in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. I think coaches have asked and answered those questions.
Q. Coach Malzahn, how much do you know about UCF? They're the top scoring team in the country, back-to-back very high scoring games. What do you think about them going into the matchup?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, they've got a lot of speed. I got a chance to watch them on TV a couple times this year, very impressive. Of course, the wins against Memphis. My buddy Mike Norvell spoke so highly of them and what kind of team they are. Coach Frost and his staff just did a super job.
They're the No. 1 scoring offense in the country. They've earned that. They've got a lot of weapons. Any time you're undefeated, that is a very, very special thing. So they've got everything going for them, and it's been impressive to watch from the outside.
Q. And for you, Coach Walters, so much has gone on just in the last 24 hours. Have you had an opportunity to process it at all with so much going on?
TROY WALTERS: Not yet. Yesterday was a whirl wind. Winning a conference championship was one of the greatest feelings in the world, celebrating with the team, with the players. All the hard work they put in, it was just an awesome feeling, awesome experience. And then finding out Coach Frost was leaving was a sad day because we know what he's poured in and what he means to this program.
But like I said, our players are resilient. We had a meeting today, came in and watched the Selection Show, saw who we were going to play, and they're excited about this upcoming opportunity to play the SEC West champions, a team that's beaten two No. 1 ranked teams in the country. It's a great opportunity for our players, this football program, this university, and we're looking forward to the challenge.
Q. Gus, I don't -- with all due respect, I don't mean to beat a dead horse here, but you said planning. I just want to be 100 percent clear. Can you say unequivocally you will be the coach at Auburn next year?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, I'm planning on being the coach at Auburn next year. I thought that was the last question we were going to ask about all that.
Q. I understand. You say planning. I just want to be 100 percent clear about what you're saying.
GUS MALZAHN: That's just what I said. You just heard what I said.
MATT GARVEY: Again, media, if you have a question on the game, you can get in the queue.
Q. At the risk of ticking everybody off, I've been traveling all day from Houston for basketball, so I'm a little out of it. Gus, the reports are that Arkansas has made a huge offer to you. How flattering is it that --
MATT GARVEY: I'm sorry, Bob. Do you have a question about the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl matchup?
Q. I do not have a question about that.
MATT GARVEY: Okay. I think we've already covered the coaching questions. If there are no more questions about the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, last chance.
Q. Gus, how tough do you think it's going to be to go back to Atlanta to get this thing back -- knowing it's at the same place. You mentioned it's a home away from home, but it's a place they've played a good bit. Do you think it's going to be a challenge getting those guys ready to go back to a place like Atlanta again?
GUS MALZAHN: I'll tell you what. They're going to be extremely excited to go back to the same venue and play better than we did. We didn't play our best. Got to give Georgia credit. But I know this team is going to be extremely hungry to win this Bowl game and to finish the season off the right way for our seniors and a chance to win 11 games.
So we'll be very excited. We're going to be very motivated. There's no doubt in my mind about that. So we always like playing in Atlanta.
Q. Coach, is it an extra challenge to prepare your team to get ready for a team that maybe a lot of people think are going to lose the game, underdog so to speak, maybe a team that your guys might not take so serious?
GUS MALZAHN: I promise you we'll take them seriously. They're the No. 12 team in the entire country. They're the only undefeated team. They're the No. 1 scoring offense in the country. And they've earned everybody's respect. Not just ours, but everybody around the country.
Our guys, they'll need to be ready, and I expect us to be ready.
Q. Guys, I know Kerryon was banged up yesterday. What's his -- what's he feeling like today? I know you've been out on the recruiting trail, but how does he feel today? And what is his status? What is his plan -- your plan for him, I guess, during Bowl practices and for the Bowl game?
GUS MALZAHN: I talked to him earlier today. He's definitely still banged up. You talk about he's just really the heart and soul of our team. The courage he showed, and he wasn't 100 percent. He tried his best.
The good thing is we've got almost a month before we play, allowing not only him to heal up but some of those other guys to heal up. We'll know more as it goes, but you're talking about a guy that really didn't get a chance to practice hardly at all last week, and he gave it his all last night.
Q. How banged up was he during the game? And how much did you have to call plays around that to sort of protect him?
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, we just tried to keep an eye on him as we went, strategically put him in there when we felt was appropriate right there. Then, of course, he helped get us here. [ Indiscernible ].
MATT GARVEY: Coach Malzahn, are you there?
GUS MALZAHN: I am.
MATT GARVEY: You were just cutting out at the very end there.
Q. Coach Walters, just wanted to talk a little bit about the defense. Gave up a lot of points in back-to-back games, bent, but did not break. Talk about not having a bye week. Has fatigue caught up with the team there in the last two games?
TROY WALTERS: You know, offense any time -- USF, they've got a dynamic quarterback, play makers on the perimeter, and Memphis, they were the No. 2 ranked scoring offense in the country. So our defense back-to-back games played two pretty explosive offenses. We played Temple on a Saturday, and then we came back with a short week against USF. I think we were a little tired for that game, but we found a way to win. We played 11 straight weeks.
Like I said, this team is resilient. We're not going to make any excuses. We're going to go out, and we're going to find a way to win. The defense, they've come up with timely stops. They know that they're going to play a great offensive team in Auburn, great running back, a quarterback that's one of the better quarterbacks in the SEC, and they've got some explosive receivers. I know we've watched, as a staff, them a couple times when we had night games and they've played early. I watched the Texas A&M game. It's a great offense, and our defensive staff will put together a great plan, and our defense, they have to be ready to go.
Q. This is actually for both coaches, if I can get you guys to answer one by one. Can you just maybe talk a little bit about the two quarterbacks in this game. It seems like it's probably one of the top Bowls with two of the top quarterbacks for both teams, two highly explosive offenses. What have you guys noticed from them as you went along in the season, and what are you expecting from these guys when they face-off on the field?
TROY WALTERS: I'll talk about our quarterback, McKenzie. He's playing at a high level. He's matured from last year to this season. He understands what we're trying to do offensively, schematically, and he's just making plays. He's making plays with his arms. He's making plays with his legs. He's getting the ball into our playmaker's hands, and he's doing everything that we're asking. I think last year he tried to force the ball quite a bit. This year he understands that he has play makers around him, and he's just making great decisions, and he's stepping up on the biggest stage.
So I know he's looking forward to this matchup against an SEC defense, as we are as an offense. Excited about his progress and excited what he's going to do January 1st.
GUS MALZAHN: Yeah, of course, Jarrett Stidham, first year here at Auburn. I think he's improved each week, really gotten command of the offense. He's done a very good job with his yards, getting yards with his feet the last part of the season, and for the most part, he's really protected the football and played at a high level.
So I think you're exactly right. I think you'll see two very, very good quarterbacks in this game.
Q. I know it's still early and still several weeks to the Bowl game, but I wanted to see if there was any update on Cameron Pettway and if he might be able to play in this game in January.
GUS MALZAHN: I don't know the answer to that quite yet. It's hard for me to answer that right now. Maybe as it gets a little closer, I can be a little more accurate.
MATT GARVEY: That will include the media Q&A portion.
GARY STOKAN: Gus and Troy, once again, I just want to congratulate you guys on a successful season. Look forward to hosting you and your families and the Auburn and UCF families here. Hope you guys have a merry Christmas, and we'll look forward to seeing you on December 26th.
GUS MALZAHN: Thank you. We're looking forward to it too.
TROY WALTERS: Thank you.
MATT GARVEY: Thanks, everyone.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports