Coming up just short as a Florida State touchdown pass with just 13 seconds left gave the Seminoles the win, Garner said it was another huge step forward for his defensive linemen despite the finish.
"I'll have to go back and look at the film to really see how we did, but I thought the guys played hard," Garner said. "I thought they tried to be physical out there. I really thought they did some good things. It was a great ball game and just came down to one or two plays, and they made the plays and we didn't.
"I'm just so proud of these guys and proud of these seniors and the foundation they have laid going forward," Garner added. "We're going to learn from this experience, we'll grow from it and we'll be better."
The game featured another inspired performance by senior defensive end Dee Ford and a fitting ending to an inspired career. Undersized coming out of high school and battling through injuries much of his career, Ford was all over the field against the Seminoles, finishing with a pair of sacks and consistently getting pressure. For the year Ford led the Tigers with 10 1/2 sacks and 181/2 tackles for losses, but Garner said it was his presence off the field that was just as important for Auburn.
"Dee, by far he is the spark that drives our room," Garner said. "He can get a lot going. For the most part I thought he played pretty good. We're going to miss him. I think we've got a chance to be a pretty good defensive line next year, but we've got to replace that production we're going to lose from him. It's an opportunity for some guys to step up."
Ford takes down Winston
Ford, Nosa Eguae, Craig Sanders and Kenneth Carter will now pass the torch to a capable group of young players on the team including Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel. Throw in a talented group of commitments for the 2014 class and things look good for the future under the guidance of Garner.
Even though this season didn't end in a national championship, there is plenty to like about what the 2013 Auburn Tigers and what they accomplished. Winning the SEC title and 12 games along the way, Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff turned the program around completely in just one season and Garner said the kids deserve a lot of the credit for what they've done from the first day until the final whistle Monday night.
"This season for me has been like a dream, a fairy tale," Garner said. "Just watching these guys grow from where they were when we got here and seeing what they were able to accomplish by buying in to Gus' vision and dream has been very rewarding for me. I'm just extremely proud of these young men. I don't think they have anything to hold their heads down about.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," he added. "We didn't want to just get here. We wanted to win the ball game. That's what true Auburn men are all about, they are competitors. I hurt for them for what they are feeling and what they are going through, but at the same time I'm very proud of them."