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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Everything Kirby Smart said about Auburn after the Tigers pushed No. 1 Georgia to the brink

Opening statement: Kirby Smart “A lot of credit goes to Auburn and their atmosphere. I told the television stations afterwards it’s an incredible atmosphere every time we come here to play. They got one of the most loyal fanbases there is. I got a lot of respect for Hugh (Freeze), the job he has done and a great atmosphere to play in. Obviously, we did not play our best game today, but we are a very resilient team. Proud of the way we competed, and we got to continue to get better. That is the most important thing for our team. So lot of things we did wrong, lot of things we did well. We aren’t going to get to where we want to go if we don’t get better, and that is the biggest thing.”

Kirby Smart

On his postgame message to his team: “I was proud of them. They are resilient as hell and competed. The leadership of this team has shown twice. You don’t know how many times you are going to be able to do that when you turn the ball over and give people extra possessions. You just can’t do that. Good football teams don’t do that, and good football teams don’t let people run the ball on them for 200 yards. That is one of the things we knew they would do well. I thought they really ran the ball well, and they used the quarterback and rushed the ball on us. We can’t do that.  We have to run the ball better, too. But, proud of the way the guys fought.”

On his team’s confidence coming out of halftime: “Well, we hadn’t been on the road. In the SEC… I don’t think people respect playing on the road in the SEC as much as I do. Being an SEC player, a veteran of this league, it is really, really hard to win on the road. All you guys see is No. 1 vs. whoever or a new program, but it doesn’t matter when you play in a rivalry game. The passion and energy is there. It’s hard to win on the road in this league. And we won. But we gotta get better.”

On Brock Bowers’ big fourth quarter: “Bowers did what he does. I mean, the guy is amazing. It’s a wonder why you don’t go to him every play. People know he’s there, try to create ways and find way to get him the ball. We need guys around him… Daijun (Edwards) stepped up, Ladd (McConkey) made plays today for a guy that didn’t practice much all week, he made some plays… There’s a lot of guys who made plays, but we need more playmakers around Brock so that people can’t isolate him. But I thought Carson played better in the second half and it never felt like he was rattled. And that was a concern coming in. Would he be rattled by this environment?”

On how much Saturday’s win meant to him: “They all matter. They really do. We put so much into this. I mean, 16-18 hour days for five or six days, the kids work really hard, there’s a lot of build up and then when you have a situation when you’re behind, I don’t know how many times, but it felt like we were behind the whole game. And you come back and win on the road, it says something about your team and your character. Nobody panicked. Nobody panicked. And I don’t know how good of a team we got, I really don’t. I don’t sit here and claim that we’ve got some kind of unbelievable team, but I do think our team believes in each other. We connect. We step up when we need to step up. But we can’t keep turning the ball over.”

On what Auburn was doing with the quarterback run to give Georgia trouble: “Well, they got misdirection plays. A lot of plays we practiced. No. 1, you got an extra hat when you go the quarterback. We all know that. So unless you got really good, really elite defensive line, linebackers and safeties that are filling and fitting just perfect, one miss fit is an 8- or 9-yard run. And in the past, we haven’t struggled with that kind of run game. They hurt us. They caught us with some things they did and we expected it. That’s what’s disappointing. You expect it and you don’t stop it. So we’ve gotta help our players and we gotta get better on defense.”

On the Bulldogs stopping the Tigers’ offense on 4th and 1 in the redzone just before half: “Yeah, that was big because I think he could’ve gone for a field goal but it felt like they needed touchdowns, kinda like I was feeling the same thing. But when do I go for it and when do I not? That was a big stop. But hell, we gave them another possession after that. We went out there and I wanted to be aggressive and I ended up calling a timeout, we had to kick it to them and I’ll be danged if they didn’t have to kick it to us. So it was a back-and-forth deal. Those were big plays in the game. It’s tough when you bank on getting the first possession of the second half and you gift it away. That really kills momentum. Overcoming that — the difference in South Carolina, where we gained momentum. We came out and scored. We lost momentum in the second half (tonight). Just can’t keep doing that.”

On Georgia’s offensive success on third down: “Unbelievable job by our offensive staff. I mean, unbelievable job. You go 8-for-10 against air, it’s incredible. It’s hard to do that in our leagues with the defensive players they’ve got and rushers… they had a good plan and did an incredible job… We take a lot of pride in third down and the red area being leaders in the country. And our offense is kinda starting to create an identity of being good at that.”

On Auburn’s ability to stop the run game early: “Ron Roberts, the defensive coordinator, he does a great job here. He does multiple defenses. He plays three down, four down, they play physical, they strike, they did a good job. They played really hard. We left some plays out there, now. We had some plays that they didn’t always stop us as much as we stopped ourselves. The turnovers and some self-inflicted wounds, but we did run the ball well on the perimeter. I thought the fast ball helped take the crowd out of it at times. I mean, look… To have a quarterback that’s never gone on the road to start at Auburn and to not have a procedural penalty or a delay of game? Pretty remarkable to do what they did. I thought we handled that really well. We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties.”

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