NEW ORLEANS – Bourbon Street is just a few blocks away from the team hotel, but offensive lineman Alex Kozan, one of four fifth-year seniors on Auburn’s roster, is urging his younger teammates to exercise caution when tempted to carouse.
“It’s like anything in life,” Kozan said. “There’s a balance. You don’t want to lock yourself in your room the whole time. At the same time, you’ve got to know why you’re here. That’s part of being a man. That’s part of growing up, realizing what your priorities are and what your responsibilities are.
“That’s the biggest thing I stress to the younger guys especially, first or second bowl trip, take care of yourself, be responsible, make the right decisions. You don’t it want it to be like a military camp or something like that. Got to have a little fun, enjoy the bowl trip. After the first day or two, you really have to lock in and focus on the game because you’re playing a quality opponent in Oklahoma. We’ll enjoy New Orleans. Go see the sights and sounds, but we’ll lock in here after the first day or two and really get prepped for the game.”
Auburn practiced eight times on campus before taking a break for Christmas. The Tigers will resume their preparation Wednesday at Tulane.
“I thought everybody was focused on task,” Kozan said. “We were executing at a high level. I think we’re ready to go.”
Auburn, ranked No. 14, plays No. 7 Oklahoma Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“Oklahoma’s a good team,” Kozan said. “We’re a good team. We’re both playing in the Sugar Bowl. If neither of us weren’t good, we wouldn’t be here. I kind of look at it as two equal teams playing one last game. That’s kind of how we take it.”
The Sooners, with Heisman finalists quarterback Baker Mayfield and receiver Dede Westbrook, average nearly 45 points per game, almost 30 more than Auburn allows.
“I trust our defense to do a great job,” Kozan said. “They’ve held some pretty good offenses to much lower than their averages, but at the same time they (Oklahoma) has some really good players, I think they have two Heisman finalists, so as an offense we definitely need to score points. Can’t put it all on the defense’s shoulders. We realize that and know what we have to do.”
“Definitely helpful,” Kozan said. “Whenever you can have the first quarterback and first running back back there who have had the reps, that just makes a whole world of difference from an execution standpoint, it all flows better.”
A starter at left guard since his redshirt freshman season, Kozan will conclude his Auburn career Monday night in the Superdome.
“Definitely special,” he said. “The fourth-year seniors, true seniors, I’ve gotten to know those guys really well, have some great relationships with them. Really the whole team so, excited to play one last game with them and trying to get one last win.”