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December 29, 2017

Dontavius Russell

Deshaun Davis

Stephen Roberts

Tray Matthews

Atlanta, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: We'll just go down the line here with an opening statement, and I would love for you guys to talk about your experience so far in bowl week, how is that for you guys, and what happened at Andretti, Deshaun? You guys came up a little short there.

DESHAUN DAVIS: I think I was cheated in my race. But we had a great experience at the bowl so far. There's been a lot of competition. They told us when we first got here, six out of the seven times they have been doing the competition, the team has won, so that's something that really stood out to us. We are not taking these competitions lightly, but this is a game that we are really preparing for, really juiced up about.

I know a lot of buzz has been going around that this is a game that we're probably not going to get up for, but we've got a lot to play for; our 11th win, ending the season on the right note. They mentioned to us that we'll be the first team in college football to beat three 9-0 teams that were undefeated, so that's something that we're looking forward to, also. Like I said, we had a great experience here and just ready to play the game.

THE MODERATOR: Tray, you guys came storming back in the baseball competition last night to tie it 1-1. The winner has won the bowl game six out of seven times. Was that important for your momentum this week?

TRAY MATTHEWS: Yeah, it was important. We had to get things back on track. So I'm very pleased with the team's effort yesterday. You know, I think we have a few more things we have to do and hopefully we can finish this thing off right and get a W in all the columns and win the game. That's our mind-set to compete on everything we do and finish with a win.

THE MODERATOR: Dontavius, talk about your experience at the Martin Luther King Center yesterday, and what that meant and what type of bowl week experience that was for your team.

DONTAVIUS RUSSELL: I think it was real beneficial for our team to be able to go and see where a lot of things started as far as -- especially for us, we wouldn't be able to play in this situation that we're in without their influence. Being able to meet those different types of movers and shakers and actually in person to shake their hands, I think was real beneficial. It's all history like they was saying earlier, and it was really important to follow that and see that.

THE MODERATOR: What did you take away from the Martin Luther King visit last night?

STEPHEN ROBERTS: I took away the leadership the guys showed us. That's one thing our coaches built on us is leadership and to hear from them guys, different strategies of leadership was big for me and my standpoint; for my group of guys here, leadership, as well. It's been big for us. They taught us about how you don't have to be a vocal leader. You can be a leader that's all about action. Different leaderships that you can use.

Q. For Deshaun, you said you guys are really pumped up for this game, but immediately after the SEC Championship Game loss, did the senior leaders or the leadership of the team have to sort of give everybody a pep talk and say, we still have something to play for? How did that work?
DESHAUN DAVIS: Yeah, that was definitely one of the things that we had to do. Of course, you know, we took a tough loss in the SEC Championship, and we knew that it was an opportunity to play for the Playoffs and potentially a National Championship. It was definitely a slump that we had to get over.

But us as leaders, I feel like we did a great job. What we did, we let our team be sad for a minute, let them get the taste in their mouth so the guys that come next year, they know how it feels. But at the same time, we knew we had a game to play in, and if we were to come out saying -- UCF wouldn't care. They'd still come out and step on our throat and we knew that.

It was definitely a thing that we had to get our team pumped up, but every since week we've been having practices, we had great practices, had great energy, and we're actually flying around to the ball. Offense is making plays and I feel like we're ready to play. We'll see Monday.

Q. For everybody but Deshaun, to follow up on that, what are you most excited about with this game and how do you -- how do you get yourself excited, despite what he said; that you guys missed out on the Playoff?
STEPHEN ROBERTS: I don't think it's really much excitement. It's us going out and doing a job as a team. They are going to give their all. They are a very explosive offense and they can move the ball really well. Just us, come out as a team and play as a defense is our main goal. We take every game as important. That's one thing we're built on.

Q. What are you most excited about in the game and how do you get yourself up for the game, knowing how close you guys were to the College Football Playoff?
DONTAVIUS RUSSELL: I think everyone is always excited for the next opportunity to play and go out and perform. I don't really think it was much of having to get ourselves ready to play in this game because I feel like we're always prepared to play in the next game. I just think, like I said, whenever you are able to go out and play a game, you always want to perform well. At least for myself, that's how I get ready it play in each game.

TRAY MATTHEWS: Just piggybacking off what they said, it's not hard to get up for any kind of game when you're playing college football. Especially in our shoes and how our coaches are. Coach Steele always says, you know, doesn't matter who we play, when we play, where we play, we're always going to get after it. Doesn't matter if we're playing a middle school team; we're going to be ready to play and have a lot of fun out there. That's just our mind-set in general.

Q. You guys talked about the motivation. Does it help when there's the numbers out there of, hey, number one in the offense and scoring, they are undefeated; does that help to motivate?
DESHAUN DAVIS: It does, but at the same time, it doesn't. I say that because you know, when you see all those statistics and you see all those numbers, like number one offense and they are scoring these many points or these many yards, it's kind of a challenge. You accept it as a challenge. But by those guys saying at Auburn, especially on defense, we have a standard that we play to and no matter who we play, what their numbers are, we have execution-wise a goal that we set each and every game that we want to reach.

Like I say, those numbers, they kind of give you motivation but at the end of the day, we're going to be who we are no matter who we play.

Q. There's been a little bit of talk from their running back, Adrian Killins, talking about Auburn has not seen the speed that he brings. Did you see that, and what were your thoughts on some of the things that the UCF players have said coming in?
DONTAVIUS RUSSELL: Oh, yeah, I saw it but it's not really something that we overly thought about. I just think that everybody is going to have their opinion and they are welcome to it. But for us, we have played teams with speed and we also have speed of our own on our own team.

DONTAVIUS RUSSELL: For us, we have speed of our own, so I don't think it's anything we really thought about after we saw those comments.

Q. Just for anybody, what makes UCF's offense so good? Is it speed or the concepts? Are the concepts unique to anything you've seen before?
DESHAUN DAVIS: Yeah, I could answer that. I could say their concept is very unique. I know in the running game, they do a lot of misdirections, they do a lot of things to get your eyes running and to get their speed to the edge. They really do have some fast guys, but I think their concept is kind of, you know, what gives you a problem.

Even in the passing game, they do a lot of switch routes and things in the secondary to get your eyes and also get you tangled up looking at one guy when they really want to hit another one. Their coach does a really good job. He run concepts to attack the holes that you have in your defense. He's a very smart offensive coordinator and me just watching film, I respect their game and I respect his mindset as a coach.

We know we have a challenge in front of us and it's a challenge that we have accepted. You know, I feel like we're prepared.

TRAY MATTHEWS: They do a lot of unique things as far as receiver, like Deshaun said, they do a lot of pick routes. Your eyes got to be on point and got to be in the right spot. And they do a lot of roll-out routes where you have to be in a lot of combo situations where you have to trade off man.

They just have a lot of speed, and the quarterback is definitely a dynamic player. He's kind of a small guy, but he plays like he's, you know, a big guy, 6-3. And he has a great arm. He's elusive. We have to contain him and keep him in the pocket for the most part.

DONTAVIUS RUSSELL: I think the offense plays to their strengths and that's what everybody tries to do. I think we'll have to do the same, like play to our strength and see just how the game goes. That's just the main thing I think about it.

STEPHEN ROBERTS: Like Tray was saying, offense, they are very explosive. Especially from the receiver standpoint, they have a lot of route concepts that's very new. But I think it's nothing we haven't seen before as a secondary. That's one thing we took seriously this week and we take seriously every week, just doing our job and just executing.

So that's one thing, our defensive coordinator, Coach Steele told us, always tell us, do your job, no matter what time you play, when you play, who you play, just do your job.

Q. You've probably answered this question a bunch, but talk about your decision to come back for your fifth year and kind of what went into that for you?
DONTAVIUS RUSSELL: For me, the narrative of college football is always you're a student-athlete first. I didn't want that narrative to change for me given the success and how I've played at Auburn. One of the most important things for me is to complete my degree and that's something I really wanted to do. The only way that I can do that now, and you've got to think which reward comes first. I think the degree is what comes first, and that's what I'm trying to accomplish with coming back.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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