BCS Notebook, Day 4: Auburn defense 'knows how to win'

Jan. 3, 2014


Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is the center of attention as he walks to Auburns practice field at Cal-Irvine (Todd Van Emst photo)

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson knows his Tigers have given up yards, but they have made up for it with a strong red zone defense and playing tougher in the fourth quarter. 

That's how you go 12-1 and will play in the BCS Championship Game against Florida State on Monday.

"No matter what happens early in the ballgame … our players know how to win a game with one second left on the clock. They know how to win a game with a minute and a half left on the clock. They know how to win a game," Johnson said Friday as he and five Auburn defenders met the BCS media.

"I think no matter what the situation is, they'll play their way through it."

Defensive back Jermaine Whitehead agreed. 

"I think playing in the fourth is probably one of the biggest things our team likes to do, being a team that we're trying to put ourselves in this position, we knew we had to be a great four-quarter team," he said. "At the end of the game it's ended in a unique fashion for us, and we've been trying to make dominant plays in that quarter to put ourselves in position to win those games."

And now, Auburn is playing for the national title.

"We're definitely embracing the moment," said defensive end Dee Ford

"We're just here to win the national championship," said cornerback Chris Davis.
-- Charles Goldberg

Davis focused on the future, not the past

Cornerback Chris Davis was having a breakout season even before he returned a missed field goal 109 yards to beat Alabama on Nov. 30. But it was that return that made him an Auburn hero for the ages. He got a standing ovation when he went to class the following Monday.

But Davis says his focus is forward, not backward.

“My life has changed a lot since the Iron Bowl,” Davis said. “Every time I turn on the TV, ESPN, I'm seeing that play. But I'm trying to put that moment behind me. We've got a bigger task at hand come Monday. We're playing for the national championship, and we're trying to bring it back to the state of Alabama.”
-- Phillip Marshall

Jay Jacobs: ‘Isn’t this great?’

Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs was in the lobby of the Auburn team hotel with his daughter, Meagan. And he was smiling.

“Isn’t this great?” Jacobs said. “Nobody would have believed it in August.”

Not even Jacobs, who introduced Gus Malzahn as Auburn’s head coach on Dec. 4 of 2012, would have believed it.

“I was hoping we’d get to a bowl game,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs’ goals have changed significantly.

“I hope we can pull it off,” Jacobs said. “These guys will be ready to play. I know that.”

Jacobs also said, by the way, that he was not the least bit concerned about rumors that the Cleveland Browns would like to talk to Malzahn about their head coaching vacancy.
--Phillip Marshall

Jameis Winston: Same guy with or without the Heisman 

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston says he hasn't changed since winning the Heisman Trophy. 

"My life hasn't changed at all because our goal as a team isn't over yet. 

"At Florida State, we began the season as everybody was looking at us like, 'OK, they've got a freshman quarterback.' Nobody is going to pay any attention. Now, we're in the national championship."

Winston was asked if Florida State's offense is as easy as he makes it look. 

"With the team we've got and the coaching staff we've got, it looks easy," he said. "But people don't look at the behind closed doors and how much hard work we put into this." 

Winston says it's been a long time since he's won a title.

"I haven't had a real championship since middle school…Why not end this year with a victory?"
--Charles Goldberg 

Timing is everything 

Florida State co-offensive coordinator Lawrence Dawsey says timing is the biggest issue when dealing with a month-long layoff.

"You've got your timing, the route runnings and you're used to being in a certain route."

"Bowl games," said fellow co-offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, "are always a challenge a little bit. 

"They're a lot like opening games. We've played 13 games to this point and it has been a month, and you always try to balance as a coach how do you practice."
-- Charles Goldberg 

It's Jimbo at Florida State

Florida State players referred to head coach Jimbo Fisher as "Jimbo" during Friday's press conference. 

"We don't call him 'Jimbo' to his face. We just say 'coach,'" said center Bryan Stork. "But he knows it. Heck, I even think his kids call him Jimbo. 

"We're still respectful to him. We're not on a first-name basis with him."
-- Charles Goldberg 

Better than the stats 

FSU center Bryan Stork said Auburn's defense is good despite what the overall stats say. 

"The stats say they're very average, but I beg to differ. I've seen the film. They give up some here and there… They're not to be taken lightly."
-- Charles Goldberg

Whitehead waved off the idea that Auburn is a “team of destiny,” saying “You can call it whatever you want.

“It's been a great season along with a lot of stories that are going to live forever,” Whitehead said. “I'm proud to be a part of it. I really wouldn't want to have it no other way.”
--Phillip Marshall