From earning All-American honors as a freshman to a back injury that almost cost him his career, Kozan has persevered through it all and now he’s on the cusp of his final game with the Tigers as they face Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on Monday night.
Along with guys like Josh Holsey, Robert Leff and T.J. Davis, Kozan makes up a select group that will play for the final time together and he said it’s bittersweet to think about.
“Definitely special,” Kozan said. “I’ve been around for five years. There is only four of us left from that. The fourth year seniors, the true seniors, I’ve gotten to know them really well and have some great relationships with them, really the whole team. I am excited to play one last game with them.”
Entering the season with very little expectations outside of their own locker room, this Auburn team turned things around very quickly following a slow start and put themselves in a position to make a run at the College Football Playoffs before injuries derailed them late in the year.
Now back healthy and ready to go, Kozan said the Tigers feel like they’re on equal footing heading into Monday night’s game despite being an underdog.
“Personally, I haven’t really thought about that,” Kozan said about being the underdog. “Oklahoma is a good team, we’re a good team. We both play in the Sugar Bowl and if neither one of us weren’t a good team, we wouldn’t be here. I kind of look it as two equal teams playing in one last game. That’s how we take it.”
Alex Kozan has started every game at left guard as an All-SEC senior.
When healthy this season this Auburn team showed it was capable of playing with the top teams in the country. While injuries hurt the defense at times, especially late in the season, it was on offense where injuries to quarterback Sean White and Kamryn Pettway put the clamps on things.
Getting them back on the practice field has given the Auburn offense a different feel said Kozan.
“I thought everybody was focused and on task,” Kozan said. “We were executing at a high level. I think we are ready to go.”
Getting back to midseason form is the goal for the Tigers heading into the Sugar Bowl, something that would give Gus Malzahn’s team a chance to come away with a victory against a potent opponent. Averaging 44.7 points and 557.3 yards of total offense per game, the Sooners are one of the most explosive offensive units in the country.
That knowledge could put extra pressure on Auburn’s offense to come through in the Sugar Bowl, but Kozan said they just have to be themselves and trust their own defense to get the job done.
“They have held some pretty good offenses to much lower than their averages, but at the same time they have some really good players,” Kozan said of the matchup between the Auburn defense and Oklahoma offense. “I think they have two Heisman finalists. As an offense, we definitely need to score point. We can’t put it all on the defense’s shoulders. We realize that.”
While its offense has been lights out all season long, the Oklahoma defense has struggled at times. Giving up 29.7 points per game and allowing more than 40 points in four games, the Sooners have some holes on that side of the ball and Kozan said it’s up to Auburn to exploit that.
“I would say they are solid at every level, but you know there are some things we can do both in the run and pass game,” he said. “I think you’ll see that when we play them on the 2nd."