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'Just trying to make plays' - punt return highlights Stephen Roberts' active Iron Bowl
Stephen Roberts' 58-yard punt return gave Auburn momentum early in the Iron Bowl.
Nov. 27, 2016

By Jeff Shearer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - His field-flipping punt return 90 seconds into the Iron Bowl was the first of many plays Stephen Roberts made in Saturday’s Iron Bowl.

“That was one of my first big returns,” Roberts said. “It made me happy to put momentum on our side.”

Roberts, who took over punt return duties late in the season after an injury to Marcus Davis, returned his first punt 58 yards to the Alabama 21.

“I wasn’t really surprised. I knew I just had to try to make a play so we could score easily,” said Roberts, who nearly took care of the scoring himself.

“It was a short, line drive kick,” Roberts said. “It opened up like the Red Sea. I saw my gunners, they were blocking really well. I really give credit to them. The whole punt return team, they blocked really well. They just gave me an opportunity to return it.”

Roberts’ return led to Daniel Carlson’s first field goal, giving Auburn an early 3-0 lead.

Roberts did the rest of his damage on defense, totaling 8 tackles.

“I think I played pretty well. Had some big tackles that were kind of big in the game. Just trying to make plays so we could work something out so we could come back and win,” he said. “Didn’t work out how we planned so we just have to bounce back and just get ready again.”

Roberts was impressed with fellow defensive back Daniel Thomas, a true freshman who filled in for injured Rudy Ford, making two interceptions and six tackles.

“Playing in the Iron Bowl, that’s kind of big for him. What he accomplished today, two interceptions, that’s kind of big,” Roberts said. “His first time really playing, out there on the field, making plays, making calls. I think he did really well.”



Roberts says Thomas made a statement this season with his performance in practice.

“That he’s ready to work,” Roberts said. “He didn’t come just to play and mess around. He came to win and be the best he can be. He showed us that today.”

Injuries took a toll as the season progressed. Auburn’s secondary was no exception.

“It’s just the next man up,” Roberts said. “That’s how we look at it. You’ve got to be a big man in this sport, because there’s a lot of banging. Just got to get treatment, come back and be ready to push.”

Auburn finished the regular season at 8-4, second in the SEC Western Division.

“We’ve just got to go back and fix our mistakes,” Roberts said. “Come back and have a better practice and get ready for our bowl game. We played pretty well for the most part. I think we’re going to be a pretty good team next year. We’ve got a young team.”

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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