Kirby Smart: We Are Definitely One of the Best Four teams in the country

December 1, 2018
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KIRBY SMART: I'd like to open with the tremendous atmosphere. The SEC Championship Game, once again, is one of the best games of every year. A lot of credit goes to Alabama. They outperformed us in the second half. The game had a lot of momentum swings in it, up and down, up and down, back and forth, which we knew it would.

We've got a lot of champions on our teams. We've got a lot of kids that have the heart of a lion, these two here especially. They lead this team, they care about this university, and they play really hard.

We told our kids that for a week they would hear nothing but how good Alabama was, and that's what they heard. Everybody said they were unbeatable, and everybody talked about it. We knew what we had, and we knew we've got a good football team. We've got a really physical football team. We've got a talented football team. And we most definitely have one of the best four teams in the country.

The system is what it is. What happens happens. These kids out here today, they battled tooth and nail with what is one of the best teams in the country. We did enough to win the game, and we didn't finish it. Give Alabama credit. They made the plays when they had to. This is a special group.

Q. Kirby, can you explain your mindset on the fake punt.
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, we had been carrying that for -- actually carried it last year. Thought it was there, and it was there today. We were going to snap the ball quick. We took too long to snap the ball. They didn't have a guy covered. We had a guy wide open. We took so long to snap it, that they recognized it and got the guy covered late. It was probably 20, 30 yards' field position that -- we came to win the game. We wanted to win the game.

I talked to the guys before the game about it. If we get an opportunity to run it, we'll run it. It was there. We just didn't get an opportunity to get it snapped before they covered the guy.

Q. Kirby, second half, Alabama defensively, why were they able to kind of continually stop you guys? You guys have been moving it pretty well for most of the game.
KIRBY SMART: We did some better things. We made some adjustments and made some plays on the ball. Got a little more pressure. They were able to affect us in the pocket. We had one third down where we didn't pick up a guy. They had pressure inside, and Jake had to throw it away. They stopped -- controlled the run game a little better, but we still dominated the line of scrimmage, but it didn't come to fruition.

Q. Jonathan, you all really did a good job on Tua and really had pressure on him most of the game and really did a good job limiting him. When Hurts came in, you knew he was going to try to probably scramble and hurt you at the end getting outside. What would you say about that?
JONATHAN LEDBETTER: They both had mobile quarterbacks. They're both mobile. We knew that going into the game. Our goal was to trap him and keep him in the pocket. We had a lot of guys rushing with a lot of passion and a lot of determination to get those guys on the ground. We did a good job with Tua. Jalen came in and surprised us a bit, a more mobile quarterback. Those are adjustments you've got to make in the game, and you've got be aware, have awareness in those situations. For the most part, I think our team did a good job keeping the quarterbacks in the pocket knowing we had to make those plays in the small moments.

Q. Coach and players, with the committee watching all day and they're together, what kind of statement do you think you guys made collectively moving forward before the vote, the final vote tomorrow?
KIRBY SMART: Well, it boils down to one thing. Do you want the four best teams in or not? It's that simple. They sat at home last year and got to go in the game while everybody else is beating each other up, and they had a good football team. Give that coach across the sideline a vote who he doesn't want to play. He'll start with us. I promise you, you don't want to play us. It's not our decision. It's their decision. But you're going to put the four best football teams in.

THE MODERATOR: Jonathan, you want to answer that one?

JONATHAN LEDBETTER: I support my coach. We worked hard. We're here. We showed up, and we played. They beat us in the end. You can't say we didn't go out there and fight. You can't say we didn't put it all on the line. You can't say we're not one of the best teams in college football. Just watch the tape. If they watch it, they should put it in.

THE MODERATOR: Jake?

JAKE FROMM: I mean, really what these two guys have said, you know, it's really not for me to decide. That's for them to decide. I thought we played our butts off today and we can only control what we can control.

THE MODERATOR: Other questions, raise your hand.

Q. Jonathan, this is sort of the reverse of obviously last year with the quarterback change. You said Jalen surprised you a little bit. What was he able to do that Tua couldn't do in the end?
JONATHAN LEDBETTER: I wasn't necessarily surprised myself. I was aware that he was in the game and what he's good at. I just think that the quick change-up kind of caught our defense off guard, and you know they're two different style players that are both mobile, but they run differently. You've got Tua who's going to try to hit our side and roll out on you, and Jalen will hit you as a vertical threat, and he did that. You've got to make sure you just prepare and just be ready for that and make those in game adjustments.

When we needed to, like I said, they didn't happen fast enough.

KIRBY SMART: He broke contain. We wanted him to break contain, but we had a player assigned to run him down, to try to get him, and he got lost in the crowd. The idea was to go flush him and run him down.

Give him a lot of credit, guys. This is a guy who's been on the sideline and comes in and plays his guts out. It speaks volumes for college football there's two young men that play that good especially in that stretch of the game. He made a great play when he broke contain and went out and made a great throw and catch. We lost contain on purpose, but the guy that's supposed to chase him down didn't get him down.

Q. Based on what you've seen of Tua on tape versus what you saw from him, especially after that first series, the first time he kind of got knocked around because you guys sacked him, did he seem like not fully himself compared to what you'd seen on tape?
KIRBY SMART: I don't know about that. I think any quarterback that gets hit gets rattled. We knew we had to affect him. If we listened to you guys, we wouldn't have even showed up. I gave all the love I could all week, and our team just worked. Our guys just grinded. We knew, if we could affect him, we could have some success. We had that early. We've got good cover guys out there too and got good disguise and good defenses.

He's a really good player. He's really talented. They also dropped some balls they probably should have caught, and we forced them into some picks.

Q. Kirby, to have this happen two years in a row to come up short at the very end, what do you feel at home?
KIRBY SMART: Sick. We've got to play better in the fourth quarter. That's a big thing for us. We talked about it at halftime. We wanted to come out and be the more physical dominant team and play the second half and win. We couldn't close the deal. I don't know what that is. We're going to figure it out, though. I can promise you that. We're a few plays away. There were a lot of plays in that game. Everybody is going to point to whether it's a field goal, whether it's a fake punt, or whether it's a breakdown on third down contain or fourth down contain and they score; a fumble. It's so many things. It's inches, and we didn't get the inches tonight. We've got a damn good football team.

Q. Kirby, I'm sorry if you said this earlier and I missed it, on the fake punt situation, was your mindset at the time you just didn't want to give the ball back to them at the time because the way they were driving the ball?
KIRBY SMART: I don't know about that, but we lost some momentum in the game. We certainly maybe we could have stopped them. I felt like that was a great call because it was there. We've seen their safe. We know exactly what their safe is. They line up, and they don't cover a guy. We've got a guy wide open, and he's not going to be covered. But in the last second they saw it. And we had a way to check out of it, but we took too long to get it snapped, and I felt like it was a really good play. It was there. It got taken away at the last second, and we didn't make the play.

But I wanted to be aggressive. Look, I wasn't coming here to play to tie, to play to keep it close. We came here to win the game. We wanted to win the game. These kids deserve to win the game, and we weren't able to do it.
 

 
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