Auburn's Carl Lawson with the stop of Derrick Henry
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Coach Gus Malzahn said he was proud of his players' effort and happy his defense gave Auburn a chance to win the Iron Bowl on Saturday. But when that didn't happen, Malzahn talked of painting the big picture.
"We'll focus on some recruiting the next couple of weeks," he said. "Our guys will finish their finals. Then we'll kind of flip the page and start thinking about bowl season and getting our guys extra practice time.
"It's very important developing your depth and those young guys. That will be a good thing."
Alabama beat Auburn 29-13 in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, though the Tigers led after the first quarter and trailed by six after the second and third quarters in a game dominated by seven field goals.
Auburn left waiting to hear which bowl it will play in, something that will officially be announced next Sunday.
"We're always going to win, lose or draw with class. That's how we look at it," Malzahn said.
Malzahn said his defense kept the Tigers in the game.
"They held them to a lot of field goals and gave us a chance in that fourth quarter," he said.
It wasn't always easy this season. There were injuries, starting in the first game, and they continued, including losing tackle Avery Young in the first half Saturday.
"A lot of our leaders got hurt this year. A lot of our key players got hurt," said running back Peyton Barber. "We had a lot of things go wrong. But that's how the cards play."
The Iron Bowl was like some of the other games, like the seven-point loss to Georgia and the eight-point losses to Mississippi State, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Alabama won by double figures after scoring a touchdown with 26 seconds left.
"I know is our guys fought their guts out," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. "We had opportunities. We ran the ball very well in the first half."
Alabama's run defense, considered one of the best around, was an obstacle. And so was losing Young.
"It hurt our run plan a little bit losing Avery," Lashlee said. "That hurt our tight end sets, and we had success running the ball with our tight end sets in the first half.
"At the end of the day, our defense was fighting their butt off.
"Offensively, our kids played so hard. We just came up a few plays short."
Lashlee said he was "extremely proud" of quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who teamed with Jason Smith for a 77-yard touchdown pass that was the play of the game for Auburn.
"He knows he missed some throws. He also made a lot of plays," Lashlee said. "He protected the football with the exception of that last desperation play. We just didn't make enough plays. But with what all he's been through this year, and the way the season started and went for him, for him to come back and play in these last four games, and to compete the way he did, and not let all the stuff get to him, he's done some things that will help him down the road in life, and I'm really proud of him."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine