The following are comments from players and coaches after the 23-17 loss to Auburn yesterday.
OL Coach Ark Kehoe: (On the outcome) We played hard. We played physical against a physical team. I just get tired of losing games like this - it gets old. We're real frustrated, but I am very proud of how hard the players played. We just have to look at the film and keep working. We obviously made some critical mistakes that cost us a game we had a chance to win. That's hard to deal with. (On getting John Jerry back) He did a nice job. Thomas Eckers also came in when Andrew Wicker got a shoulder stinger and we scored on that drive. (On how hard losing is) It's real tough, but Coach O is handling it real well with the way he addressed the team. He told them how proud of them he was. We got physical with them on both sides of the ball at the LOS and fought them hard. The kids are disappointed, just like the coaches, because we work so damn hard to win. It was a winnable game, we had a great day, a great crowd and we are just not getting it done. (On the offense) We had to settle for a field goal once when they loaded up the box and we couldn't do much against it. That was probably the difference in the game, but we made some plays today and had a few runs that panned out. We didn't have many plays in the game, but we made the most of some of our chances. It was a crazy game. Our first drive was perfection. Another scoring drive was really good. We had our chances. (On coming back after losing big to Arkansas) We are encouraged about some things. I don't want anyone to think I'm not, but we are playing to win games. Georgia, Alabama, Auburn - we played them all tough. It's still a loss and winning is what it is all about. I was proud of the way we prepared and I could tell this morning the guys were into it. We got better this week to take the 7th-ranked team to the wire, and Auburn knows they were pushed to the limit too, but I still go back to us having to find ways to win these games. Playing close has gotten old.
LB Jamarca Sanford: (On his first college game at LB) It's all football. There is a lot of difference and there is more contact in the box where linebackers play, but it's still football. I like the contact, but it's rough in there, I can't lie. I can deal with it, but the big boys roam in the box. (laughed) Nothing really caught me off guard. I had to study hard, but I basically had everything I needed to know down. It's an adjustment, but not a huge adjustment. It's a lot faster at LB and the guys flying around you are bigger, but I loved it.
TE Robert Lane: (On catching two big passes) I was at fullback and both were basically the same play. We fake the lead and I run a seam route. It came open twice and Brent hit me twice for big plays. I thought it sparked us early, but we have to make more plays like that - on offense and defense. If we have to make a third-down stop or make a big catch, we have to do it more often. That's what makes the best teams in the SEC so good - when they need to, they make big plays. We're all about equal talent-wise, I think, but the teams that make the big plays when they have to wins. (On making big plays) Some of it is mental, some of it is physical and some of it is luck. We just have to find a way to do it - mental, physical or luck, just find a way. (On the team's progress versus last year at this time) We are mentally tougher this year than we were last year. We will finish strong and try to win these last three. We will continue to work hard and play hard and try to see if we can end the season on a good note. (On his knee) It's better, but it's still a little painful.
FS Charles Clark: (On his interception) We were in zone coverage and I was reading the front side to see if any receivers came across the field. I saw one coming, watched the QBs eyes and broke on it. I almost had another one on basically the same play, but this time I had to step around the tight end to keep from getting an interference penalty. I had it in my hands, but the ground jarred it loose. It felt good to get one. Hopefully that will give all of us more confidence to get more picks. (On the game) A couple of key third downs hurt us. We shot ourselves in the foot on those and they led to points. We kind of beat ourselves today. You can't make mistakes against teams like Auburn and win. They are ranked for a reason - because they are good and they don't beat themselves.
Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner: (On the game) We've had a few of these kinds of games where we have played good teams and come up a little short. That's not good, but our guys are battling and trying to execute. We have to find a way to make a couple of more plays. Our first drive was picture perfect, but we followed that up with two third-quarter interceptions. We needed one more drive like that first one and we are all smiling right now. (On the fullbacks/tight ends involvement) We used three guys - Lane, Lawrence Lilly and Robert Hough - and they all produced, either from tight end or fullback. I was glad to see us get three big plays from those guys - two big catches by Robert at FB and a TD catch by Lilly. (On Schaeffer's play) I thought he played well. We threw the ball downfield more and had some success. He had two interceptions. One was a really good play by their safety. It was play-action and the safety bit up. When he bites up, that route is supposed to be open. The safety bailed back right when Brent let the ball go and made a great play on it. Brent did what he is told to do on that one with his read, their guy just made a great play by bailing at the last second. The second pick was a little high, but catchable. We have to make those plays. Take those two away and the game is a different outcome, most likely. (On the OL) I thought our guys lined up in our power stuff and did a good job. We were coming off the ball low and hitting guys in the mouth. The reverses, play-action and boots helped too. I think we kept them guessing most of the day. Auburn was able to get some pressure on a couple of miscommunications on the OL. On one sack, we called a protection and our tackle didn't hear it right. He went inside and the DE didn't have anyone lay a hand on him. He almost took Brent's head off. If the tackle steps outside, we've got a good play called. Here's the thing - when you are playing a good team, little things like that always show up and always cost you the game. You just can't make those kinds of mistakes against really good teams.
MLB Patrick Willis: (On his team) I was proud of the way we came out from the jump and played well for 60 minutes. We made a couple of mistakes that cost us the game, but Auburn knew we were there to play. Mistakes are part of football, but we have to minimize ours to get over the hump. It is frustrating that you really can't make any mistakes against a team like Auburn. They are ranked for a reason - they minimize their mistakes and make big plays when they have to have them. We are a pretty good football team, but we make too many mistakes at critical times. That's why they are ranked and we are not. We did make some big plays, but not quite enough. (On the physical play of both teams) It was a war. They did not line up and knock us off the ball. They thought they could, but they couldn't. They don't realize how hard we work during the week and how much we want to win. They did not take that into account. We are going to play hard and bring it. We haven't played great football a lot of times this year, but we got closer today and nobody is just going to push us around.
TB Bruce Hall: (On his 34 yards rushing on 7 carries) I'm patient and when my turn comes, I want to produce and show the coaches I can make plays. As a former QB, I have learned patience. In football and in life, you don't always get what you want right when you want them, but it all pans out in the end. I was glad to get the opportunity and show the coaches I can help this team win. (On his halfback pass to Brent) I saw that a defender had bailed out on his pursuit and picked Brent up, so I had to put some zip on the ball. If that defender hadn't recovered, I was going to lob it and it would have been six points, but that CB did a good job of getting himself back in the play. It was open either way, I just had to make sure I threw the right pass so Brent could catch it. I was surprised the coaches called the play, but I was hoping they would. (On the loss) The reason this league is the top conference in the nation is because every week you have to play your best to put yourself in a position to win and there are no guarantees you are going to win then. You have to battle every snap of every game. Mistakes are magnified on this level and in this conference. You really can't make any and that's why the SEC is the SEC.
QB Brent Schaeffer: (On coming up short again) It's heartbreaking. Knowing we took the number 7 team in the nation to the wire and didn't make one or two plays more to win it is heartbreaking. It happens like this sometimes in the SEC, but we're tired of it happening to us. That's three SEC games we've had great chances to win that we didn't do enough to get us over the hump. It hurts. (On the opening drive for a TD) That was great. We were feeling it and things were clicking. We haven't been a team that has started fast this year, but we did today. That was a big boost for us and it set the tone for the rest of the game. (On the gameplan) Coach (Dan) Werner and the coaching staff did a great job with the gameplan and in preparing us. I also know everyone spent a lot of time on their own watching film and getting ready. We were here early in the morning and late at night on our own to get ready. We executed well during the week on the plays we were going to run against Auburn and it showed up some today. Not enough, but some. (On the team winning the close ones) We want it bad enough and we work hard enough for it to happen. (On criticisms of his play this year) I never see it. I don't look. It does no good to listen to people who don't believe in you, so why bother? Regardless of what anyone says, I'm still going to be out there and so I just have to put all of that behind me and do my best. (On the TD to Lilly) It was a maked boot and their end came hard off the edge. I kind of froze him with a move and I could see the first two progressions weren't there. I caught Lilly coming on the back side and saw he was open. He was the third progression on the play. (On the feel of the offense) It felt smooth for the most part. We had some chemistry going. We were communicating well and having fun playing together. (On the first pick he threw) The safety came up and at the last second jumped back into the second window at the right time. Good play by him. It was the same play I hit Mike (Wallace) on earelier, but this time the safety jumped it and I didn't see him until it was too late. (On catching a pass from Bruce Hall) We work on it all the time but I was surprised they called it. I tease Coach Werner all the time about calling it. The last time I caught a pass was a long time ago. My high school coaches never would let me. (On ending the first half without taking a long shot) I wanted to, but I understand the coaches' thinking. On first down, we didn't gain yards. If we had, we were going deep on the next snap. If not, we were going to go into the locker room tied with the seventh-ranked team in the nation. (On his second pick) Shay (Hodge) was my first read, but he was covered. I went to my second and third reads and they were covered. I went back to Shay and he had worked himself open. I threw before I set my feet and the ball sailed a little on me. I wish I could get that one back. It was my fault. I should have set my feet. (On the off-the-field distractions this week) We just stayed optimistic and kept doing things the right way. We miss those guys and love them, but we have to keep going and not miss a beat. We came together and vowed to give it our all every practice and every game. We are going to be reckoned with. Auburn knows it, we know it. Georgia knows it, Alabama knows it. We're going to keep knocking on the door until we kick it in.
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