Iron Bowl 2015: Post-game quotes from Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn

Alabama head coach Nick Saban, right, and Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn meet before a NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Post-Iron Bowl quotes from Alabama coach Nick Saban and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn:

Alabama coach Nick Saban:

"I couldn't be more proud of the guys than I am of this team. Ever since the Ole Miss game they've had their backs against the wall and responded every possible way that you could ask them to. From a competitive standpoint, we did a great job of improving all season long. This was a tough game today, a really tough game today, and we expected it to be a tough game. I've got to give the Auburn players a lot of credit. They played hard. It was really a battle and a tough one. Fortunately, we only gave up the one big play in the second half and were able to control the ball pretty well when we needed to at the end of the game. Adam Griffith did a great job today, hitting on four field goals and a long one. Obviously, you'd like to be able to score a few touchdowns when you're in the red area, but we stopped them a few times too. It was a great football game. It's a great rivalry. It's a great atmosphere out there to compete in. I'm really proud of the way our players responded and the way that they needed to do in order to win the game. To win the (SEC) West is an accomplishment. To have the opportunity to play for the SEC Championship against a very good Florida team is certainly an opportunity that this team deserves and worked hard for. It will certainly be a challenge for us, but I can't tell you how proud I am of our team and players and how they competed really all year long since the Ole Miss game. This was a tough one today, but they certainly responded well in the things they needed to do to have success."

On Derrick Henry breaking the school record for rushing attempts:

"We'd really like for someone else to run the ball, but it got tough to take him out and he seemed to get stronger as the game goes on. It's hard to take him out at the end of the game. He's the go-to guy and he didn't want to come out. He wanted to go and said that he could, and certainly finished the game like we needed to today. My hat is off to him as a competitor, and he really inspires everybody on our team in the way he competes, plays and the toughness that he runs with. What a spirit."

On Adam Griffith responding after giving up the Kick Six:

"I'm just happy with this team on this day. That game will be something that I will never ever forget, and that certainly wasn't Adam's fault. He did a great job today, and not just on field goals, but on kickoffs, and he really did a nice job of finishing the season for us."

On what went through his mind on when Jason Smith caught the tipped touchdown pass:

"Well, we had the momentum in the game right there. It was third down and eight or nine. We played cover two and they were in empty. We didn't make the right check on the empty side, because we usually check and the players were confused, so we busted. Geno (Smith) still had a chance to make the play, but he sort of undercut the ball, and when the guy tipped the ball there was nobody left. It was a big play for them. It was the one play we gave up in the second half that could have been critical in the game, but it certainly made us bear down and continue to compete because we knew this was going to be a 60-minute game. They've got a lot of good players and they're all capable of making the play, but certainly that play reminded me of the play they made against Georgia the same year they made the kick return against us. It was a good play, and it counts for seven."

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn:

"First of all, our kids fought their guts out. I really appreciate their effort. Our fans were unbelievable. They helped us get to the fourth quarter, and they were there the whole time for us. We had opportunities in the fourth quarter. We talked all week about getting in the game and into the fourth quarter, and finding a way to win. We were right there and just didn't make the plays to win the game, and they did. That's a good football team. Things that really standout to me offensively is that we were 3 for 15 on third downs. You aren't going to beat many people at all when you are 3 for 15 on third downs. We had trouble running the football. They would have extra guys down and make us throw the ball on first and 10. We had a hard time at times throwing and catching the football in the passing game. Defensively, their running back is a very good player. Their offensive line is solid. They are a good team and when you play a good team you have to play well. We didn't make the plays at the end. But I do appreciate our players' effort and toughness. Like I said, they fought their guts out."

On first half vs. second half carries:

"They put an extra guy down on first down. They dared us to throw it. Early on, when they did that, we got some yards. We had some trouble in the second half. That was really the biggest difference"

On changing the running game from previous years:

"It had something to do with it on first down. Like I said, when they roll an extra guy down, they have one extra guy you can't block. That has a lot to do with it."

On running the ball on third and three:

"We had the look we wanted. It was a similar look to last year when we over threw one of the receivers. We thought we had a chance to score a touchdown, and didn't make the play. I don't feel bad about that. I feel like that was the right call, but we just didn't execute."

On the late hit call:

"It was close. It was right there on the edge. Their quarterback is a really good runner. I can't fault our guys. They gave a great effort."

On Alabama's momentum from the late hit:

"It was one of the key moments. I think they kicked a field goal right there and went up by two scores."

On Jason Smith's catch:

"We ran a similar play early on and we saw that he came open. I think we got a little pressure so we came back to it and talked about him running it down the middle of the field. He made a really great play and had great concentration on it."

On improvements after this game:

"Right now, we are hurting over this game. Offensively we need to get better. I know that, and we will."

On if he had thought about going for it on fourth and one in the third quarter:

"I thought about it, but we pinned them down right there inside the twenty and I felt like that was the right thing to do. They did put a drive together, but I felt like that was the right thing to do."

On the game turning into a game of field goals:

"Both teams were kicking field goals in the first half and we were down six so I felt pretty good. We missed an opportunity down near the end zone on a third-down and three and I think we missed a field goal. We were in a good spot and like I said, our goal was to get the game to the fourth quarter and find a way to win. We did that, we just were able to make the plays when we needed to."

On what made the offense a disappointment:

"It's a number of things."

On if it was unexpected:

"Yeah, we just haven't played consistently well on offense."

On if there was a chance Sean White could play:

"No. We decided we were going to go with Jeremy (Johnson). Sean isn't healthy and Jeremy had a good week of practice. Jeremy fought hard and he competed."

On what he thought about the defense against the run:

"I thought the defense did a good job. Like I said, they have a very good running game and he is a very talented young man."

On if there was a specific game plan defensively:

"I thought we had a good plan. Our plan was to try to keep away from the big plays and we did that for the most part."

On staff changes:

"I am not talking about any staff changes. I am talking about the fact that we are disappointed. We are disappointed that we didn't find a way to win at the end and that's what were are thinking about right now."

On how he views this 6-6 season:

"We finished 6-and-6 and we are going to a bowl. We have to get better and we are going to get better. That's how I view it."

On losing five straight SEC home games:

"We have got to correct it and we will correct it."

On what the team has to do to improve:

"There are a lot of different things in my mind that we have to work on to get better and we will. This was our last regular season game and we will get a plan and get better. I guarantee that."

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