January 1, 2021
Orlando, Florida, USA
Camping World Stadium
Northwestern Wildcats 35, Auburn Tigers 19
KEVIN STEELE: Like every other team in the country, their life got turned upside down last March and they fought through it like champions. The season was obviously the same for everybody else and that was difficult for everybody across the country and then we added on that, you know, we lost our head coach in Coach Malzahn and of course that was added on. Those are not excuses.
It is to say how resilient these young men are and how they love Auburn and they love the fight. They have done everything we've asked them to do. We came out in this game and struggled a little bit in the first half offensively. Defensively we were out of sync. We had a pick route that they hit a big play on and had a bad call on me on fourth down and got the ball behind us and converted on that which led to 14 points.
From that time on into the third quarter, played really good run defense. Played really good on third down and then the offense got a little bit of movement there and we had I think a fourth down, on the fourth down stop, we didn't go back out there with the correct energy and focus, and they drove the ball methodically down the field and changed the stat sheet drastically in the run game.
Then I think there was a turnover after that and the same thing happened. We were not pleased with that as a group, as a defense. But Northwestern is a very, very good football team in terms of their play and they are mistake-free in a lot of ways. They are a really, really smart football team. They have talent, but they are well, well-coached and hats off to them. And Pat, he does a great job.
Q. What was Bo's injury like at the end of the game?
KEVIN STEELE: I'm just going to be transparent with you on that. We probably need to get Chad in here. I told Chad and Larry, I'm not going to -- I'm just going to tell you. I'm going to be totally transparent and tell you what I told them. It's going to sound funny, but that's OK: I'm not going to play head coach today. I'm going to coach defense. If we need to make a decision over there that's major, tell them I'll flip over and I'll do it. Chad, you've been a head coach, go coach the offense and make decisions. Larry, you've been a head coach, go coach the special teams and do that. If it's a major decision, then I will do it but I'm going to be coaching defense.
So I couldn't really answer your question.
Q. I know you are were without a lot of players today, so you ended up playing a lot of young guys. What did you see from the young guys in this Bowl performance?
KEVIN STEELE: Yes, well, the first thing, I appreciate you asking that. We are Auburn Football. We are never going to make excuses or for who is out there, who is not out there. It's next man up. Doesn't matter, COVID, injury, opt-out, we don't do that. It's next man up. We had some young guys go out and do some really good things and it's going to help with the future of this program to play in this game and as many snaps as they did. Some of them played more snaps in this game than all year long and it's not even close. We saw some good things out of those guys.
Q. You guys really stifled the running game for pretty much the first three quarters. What changed in the fourth quarter that got Northwestern going on the ground that you couldn't stop it?
KEVIN STEELE: That's a good question. I think we lost our edge after we went for it on fourth down there and missed it a by couple of inches, we didn't go back out with the same edge that we had played with all day. I think that had something to do with it.
Q. I wanted to ask about Elijah's touchdown catch. How big a momentum shift was that for you guys to get that big touchdown?
KEVIN STEELE: We were clawing and scratching to get the points, in the first half, the two field goals and so we were clawing and scratching to make something happen. That big play offensively put points on the board that we needed desperately, but it also energized the whole football team.
Q. I know you said earlier in the week that you wanted the focus to be on the players in this Bowl game just heading into the game but now that it's over, have you thought about your future and do you expect to be with this program moving forward?
KEVIN STEELE: Okay. The first part of that, have I thought about my future since the last second, I haven't. I went to the locker room. Talked to the guys and told them how proud we were of what they have done all year long what they have learned to manage and all the things that were happening with them and how that would serve them in life later on, so no, I haven't had time to think about that.
What was the last part of your question?
Q. Do you expect to be part of this program moving forward?
KEVIN STEELE: That's not -- that's not been addressed. That will be something that Coach Harsin and the administration will have their decisions, and then off of that, we will have our decisions.
Q. It looked like early in the game you were not getting a lot of pressure on their quarterback and as the game went along, you got a little bit more. Did you make any changes in that area?
KEVIN STEELE: No, they were max protects and chip max-protecting when we were releasing out late, they were getting guys close to the core and chipping off the edge and so it was chip-max, meaning that it looked like max and then it would release out and he was getting the ball out on the mesh routes and the over routes.
We changed up a couple things on that to help create with our pass rush in terms of schematically what we were trying to get done when we got him in a passing situation, so yes, we did make some adjustments there.
Can I just say something? This is really directed at all of you is fine, but for the people at Auburn that have covered us, we don't know what the future holds, but I will tell you this. You guys have been really fun. You're good at what you do. And so whether we see each other again or we don't, you know, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell from you the coaching staff that we appreciate you and we appreciate what you do and we appreciate you covering us and creating the interest that you do for our fans which helps our players and helps our program.
So thanks to you guys and we appreciate you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports