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Auburn 24, Mercer 10 - Quotes
Sept. 16, 2017

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NO. 15 AUBURN VS. MERCER
September 16, 2017
Jordan-Hare Stadium | Auburn, AL

Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn

Opening statement...
"We got the victory today. Obviously, it was really sloppy. What stands out to me the most is the five turnovers, which is very uncharacteristic. I can't remember the last time we had five turnovers. We had a critical penalty down there in the red zone. If you take the turnovers away, I think we'd be feeling really good. Our defense played well again. I think we're doing a super job at that end. A side note there is that Darius James has a good report. Everything is fine. That was a scary deal. Anytime one of your players gets a neck injury and gets carted off, that's a scary deal. The guys will enjoy this tonight and then we'll get ready for SEC play tomorrow on the road against Missouri."

On the fumbles...
"We're going to have to look at that. It's obviously an issue and it's uncharacteristic. It kind of snowballed on us, and I think that three of those were in the red zone. That's a tough pill to swallow there, and we're going to have to correct that."

On the running game...
"We've got to run the football better. You look at it and its 43 rushes and 146 yards. We have to run the ball better. We've got to solve that one. Looking at the passing, Jarrett [Stidham] was 32-37, that's as efficient as it gets, so that was a positive. I thought he did a solid job, but what really stands out to me is that we have to run the football better."

On utilizing the other running backs...
"We feel that Kam Pettway is one of the best in our league, and the way the game unfolds sometimes, it was a close game, so I feel that the offensive coaches wanted Pettway in the game. I think that the score dictated a lot of that."

On how James' injury affected the OL and the future of the OL...
"We talked about our offensive line, and we have some depth. It was good to get a guy like Casey Dunn in there. Austin Golson has played some tackle, some left tackle last year, so his ability to play at right tackle was there. Herb and Chip will talk about what's best as far as the lineup. They'll have to watch the film and get the best person out there for next week at Missouri."

Moving forward...
"I feel like we moved the football and did some good things. I don't remember the last time we had a quarterback go out there and throw 32-37, but that's a positive sign. The underlying thing that's really carrying on with me is the five turnovers. I'm the head coach and we have to solve that. It starts with me; I have to solve that. We're going to get hard on that. It's uncharacteristic, but if you put that aside, there's some good things that you can carry on to conference play."

On Auburn's kicking game...
"I thought our kickoffs were good. Obviously it was uncharacteristic to miss that short field goal."

Jarrett Stidham, So. QB

On taking a step forward...
"I thought we did a lot of good things offensively today. We executed the game plan. We ran the ball well. We threw the ball well. We just turned it over too much. That's the downside."

On gaining confidence from today's game...
"Like I said, we executed the game plan. We moved the ball really well. It just kind of puts a damper on things whenever you turn the ball over five times. We just have to get better from here."

On the capability of Auburn's offense...
"Obviously, we wanted to put up more than 24 points on the board tonight. We moved the ball really, really well. Like I said, we executed the game plan. We just have to not turn the ball over and put it in the end zone. That's really it."

On offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey moving to the press box...
"It really wasn't much different. Obviously, physically he wasn't there (on the sideline). I'd just go over to the phone and talk to him about the drive or whatever. We just talked about things. I know that's where I think he's comfortable. I know he called it from there the past couple years. Whatever he wants to do, I'm good with."

Will Hastings, Jr. WR

On the overall performance of the offense today...
"Our main thing is to protect the ball for sure. I think everyone knows that. Overall, Jarrett was 32-for-37, which was amazing. Just protection of the football is what we need to work on."

On being Auburn's leading receiver...
"I didn't think I would be the number one guy, but I did expect that I would be in there for sure."

On the turnovers...
"Yeah, they were pretty frustrating. But we're a team and we love each other. We know we messed up, and we are going to come back next week and protect the ball."

Jeremiah Dinson, So. DB

How he felt after missing a season and a half of football...
"Confident. My confidence went up now. I feel better now. I'm just knocking the rust off now, but I'm confident now."

On Jamel Dean's play today...
"Yeah, Jamel did really well. Big physical dude. (He's a) 6-2 guy that can really run. And he did well today. Good performance by him."

Ryan Davis, Jr. WR

On the confidence level after the game...
"We just have to execute and commit less turnovers. That's what killed us. And once we clean that up and the offense gets moving and put up more point, but we just have to protect the ball as a whole."

On turnovers...
"Yeah, it's very frustrating. One happened and a second one happened and it kept happening. But you just have to concentrate and hold onto the ball. It's all fundamentals. Just got to take care of the ball."

Kam Pettway, Jr. RB

On the amount of snaps he played today...
"I didn't think coming into the game I would play that much. But I had to do what I had to do to help my team."

On the toughness of the Mercer defense...
"Yeah, I was (surprised about how tough Mercer was). They were a good team out there, so they came to fight and we had to fight back."

On taking direct snaps...
"I was comfortable. I ran it in high school. There's nothing to it. I feel natural running it, and we did it a lot (at Prattville)."

On averaging 3.5 yards per carry...
"The offensive line is kind of young, but they're good. Each and every week they come to work. We are just getting better each week."

On the confidence level heading into Missouri...
"I feel like we have confidence. We made a lot of mistakes that are fixable. We had five turnovers but it's nothing we can't fix."

Tre' Matthews, Sr. DB

On how the defense played...
"We did some good things out there. But we didn't play up to our standard. We didn't have the energy that we usually have. We have things we need to correct, and we had things we definitely did good and we'll definitely come out with more energy in SEC play."

On taking it personally if the defense doesn't force a turnover...
"Yeah, we take it (personally). It's a disrespect to ourselves because we know we can make turnovers and do a lot of things better."

Carlton Davis, Jr. DB

On the defense today...
"We did some things, but we didn't live up to our expectations. We had some coverage busts and some things we need to work on. Just need to get better from here on out. I think our preparation was good, they ran everything we expected them to run. As a defense we just need to execute the game plan better.

On watching the offense struggle...
"It's a part of the game. Sometimes you might have a good offensive performance and some days you might not. So it's our job as a defense to hold them up and continue to fight for them."

Jeff Holland, Jr. OLB

On how the defense played overall...
"I think we played pretty well, we've just got some small things to fix. It's not major, we're going to go practice tomorrow and fix the small things."

On not having a sack today...
"It's going to drive us. We're going to do fine. I think the coaches put us in good positions to make plays."

On Mercer...
"They played great, I respect those guys. I never looked down on a school like Mercer. They've got players. They have some players that I know that are pretty good, and I knew they were going to bring it."

Mercer Head Coach Bobby Lamb

Opening statement...
"Let me first of all say, I am going to summarize what I told the team. We are sitting there with 8:50 left in the game. You look up and it is 17-10, we just forced a field goal miss, and we have the ball. We probably had the poorest series of the night. That had something to do with Auburn making adjustments. We went three-and-out, had to punt and had the poorest punt of the night and then we get a targeting. Then of course they get a really short field and score to put the game away. Those are mistakes that we cannot make against a team like this, but then on the flipside you would have given anything to be in that situation going into this game when you look at it on tape.

"I did not look much at the Clemson game because they don't have the caliber athletes that we have. But we concentrated a lot on the Georgia Southern tape. Georgia Southern had 78 total yards. So you're thinking when you come into these big stadiums, they have that big scoreboard with the yardage chart up there. You're like, 'oh gosh this aint gonna be good.' But I cannot say enough about our team and the effort they gave.

"One of our goals on offense was to stay within the chains, and I do no think we had a lot of lost yardage out there. So we stayed within the chains and took the 2- and 3-yard gains inside and tried to make some outside, but Auburn has a really good defense.

"Then our defense just played lights out. I cannot say enough about our defense and the effort they gave. They were flying around the ball making plays, and they forced five turnovers. It wasn't easy for Auburn to score when they did score. Auburn never dreamed that their tailback would come in and have to carry the ball 30-something times, but that's the way our defense plays. They fly around. It's like that in practice. It is a hard yard to gain against our defense.

"Tremendous effort, a few mistakes here and there, but just a tremendous effort. I couldn't be more proud of a football team for coming into a place like this and playing the way we did."

On what he learned about the resilience of his team...
"We learned an awful lot. We had a great week of practice. In and out with the hurricane, no power here and no power there, but they were resilient. You just don't know how they are going to react in a 90,000-seat stadium for the first time against an SEC team ranked 15 in the country with an unbelievable defense. I cant say enough about our coaches coming up with a really good game plan to stay within the chains and to really get after it on the defensive side. Then we had some bigtime plays on special teams. At the end of the day the resiliency factor that I think our team has really came through, and I was proud of that. I think we have something to work with as we move forward into Southern Conference play."

On defensive play...
"We have plastered all over our building, "The Ball Is The Issue." We strive on takeaways. Those balls were ripped out. We try to practice stripping the ball. Then on offense we really protected the ball well. Overall it was just one of those games that you could just feel on the sidelines that everyone was engaged, even the players that weren't playing a lot, they were engaged in the game. I made a comment in the huddle and the players laughed a little bit. We were in a timeout situation and it was 17-10. I said, "Guys I told y'all right now on ESPN they have: Upset Alert, Mercer Bears. I can tell you that right now we have an opportunity," and they started laughing but you have to keep them loose in a game like this. People certainly found out a little about Mercer football on a national stage today."

On the possibility of being more confident after a loss like this...
"Absolutely, I have been in games before where it is really close against some good teams. I have been on a staff that beat North Carolina in '99. I was on a staff that lost by three to North Carolina, and I was the head coach in 2006. So I have been in some of those big games, but this is a whole different animal. This is a 15th-ranked team and a 5th-ranked defense in the nation who just held Clemson to 14 points. So with that being said, absolutely. I cannot say enough about how our kids performed today."

On what Gus Malzahn said to him after the game...
"He said that we have a good program. You could tell he was glad this game was over. Your kids played extremely hard. Any time a coach says something like that it is the ultimate factor, that your kids are playing hard. Because at the end of the day you got 70 guys to play hard, and it's not an easy job."

On what he thought about the performance of LeMarkus Bailey...
"I will say this about LeMarkus Bailey; he had a great game on week one and he had a tremendous game today against a good offense. They put a lot pressure on your side of the field because they are stretching the field with side throws, quick throws and they are running that big running back inside, but LeMarkus had a tremendous attitude. He was all over the field. He never stops, and he is grown up, very mature. I can't say enough about his performance today. He will be a constant for defensive player of the week because he was everywhere."

On if this is the best team he has had on his time as coach at Mercer...
"Time will tell on that, but I think that time-wise, absolutely. We have four scholarship classes in place and this is our time to shine. It takes a lot of hard work. We had a heart-breaking game last week, and to come back and have this kind of performance after losing a game like that, it shows a lot about our program and our players."

On if there was a big difference between both programs on the field...
"Yeah, and you can see it in the third quarter. I got a little nervous during the third quarter, because you could see the 85 scholarship to 63 scholarship factor, because we started running a big hill. Talent wise, I think some of our guys were as talented as some of their guys, and at the end of the day it comes down to numbers. It was a big step forwards. We have a huge road game against East Tennessee and to prepare our team for games that come down to the fourth quarter, that's what happened last week, that's what happened this week, and you got to be ready to challenge people in the fourth quarter."

On knowing Auburn's defensive quality and the reactions offensively...
"If you noticed in the first half, we were a little more conservative with playing with any change. We did not try a whole lot because when you play a team like this, we have to double-team their big players. We ran our insides so we could double-team those guys. Sometimes we got two yards, but sometimes we got seven. So, it was a good job with calls during the first half, even in the second half we opened up a little bit, but it was good to get a couple of interceptions in the second half to push the ball down the field."

LeMarkus Bailey, Jr., LB

On what it was like playing in this atmosphere...
"It was a blessing and opportunity. That is just how I look at everything I am faced with. It's an opportunity to showcase my abilities and talents. God looked out for us today and allowed us to play to the best of our abilities and give it all."

On if they were playing with an extra chip on their shoulder today...
"We were definitely underestimated all week. We have been hearing that since we got that game on the schedule so it just feels good to know that we were resilient enough to come out here and play football. That's what it is at the end of the day regardless of the stadium or how many people you have. You come in here and it's one hundred yards long, fifty-three yards wide; It's football at the end of the day."

Marquise Irvin, Jr., WR

On expectations coming into the game...
"It's college football. For us just coming in and working hard. We felt like we could win this game from start to finish but they made more plays than us at the end of the day."


 

 

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