Everything UGA coach Kirby Smart said in his Monday press conference

The No. 2 Georgia Bulldogs are 5-0 and will host Auburn Saturday. Coach Kirby Smart addressed the media Monday – a transcript of his comments and responses to questions are below (transcript has been edited for clarity).

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Bulldogs

First, here’s what Smart said in his opening statement: “I will open with the tradition and history of this game is pretty incredible. I think when you talk about one of the oldest rivalries in college football, it’s always been a game that I know, as a player, I looked forward to playing in. It’s been some tremendous games between the two teams, and our guys are looking forward to getting to play at home in front of a raucous crowd, great atmosphere. I’m expecting our fans to turn out and give us an electric atmosphere to play in against a good Auburn football team.”

On the status of DL Jalen Carter and the potential chop block by Missouri that caused the injury…

“I talked to the official during the play. He felt comfortable about what the play was. We talked about it before the game. They have a lot of backside cuts. Auburn, a lot of teams use the same methods. I’m hopeful that we can keep our players safe, do what is within the limits of the game and the rules, but that’s not for me to decide. Jalen is going to be a week or two. Not sure, it’s MCL like expected. We don’t know how long it’s going to be, but doesn’t look good for this week.”

On Auburn QB Robby Ashford…

“That’s a young man we recruited and came over and visited us several times. He is a tremendous athlete. Coach (Bryan McClendon) had him at Oregon when he was there and talked about how phenomenal an athlete he is. He worked out with the receivers and athletes. Didn’t even work out with the quarterbacks during a lot of their conditioning program. You see it on tape. He is really special in terms of twitch, being elusive. His best plays sometimes are plays that end up being broken plays. The guy can take off and really hurt you, beat with you his arm, especially on scrambles. They had a huge play last week off a scramble play. So being disciplined in your rush lanes, being disciplined in your coverage responsibilities when a quarterback scrambles will probably happen more often this week than most weeks because of the athlete he is.”

On maintaining intensity in practice, despite injuries…

“That’s the off-season. We lift, run, work out, we train all summer for this stretch run. I thought our guys were in really good shape in the fourth quarter. The conditioning is different than the physicality, right? There are bumps and bruises from contact and then there is conditioning. You certainly hope your team has the right conditioning level because you don’t fix that in-season. You got to have a good conditioning level to play in the fourth quarter, which I think we have. The physicality part you can tone down how much you hit, but you do that at the cost of not being as physical as you want to be.”

On the run game vs. Missouri, including gap plays…

“We run gap plays in every game. If you look at the game you see that we have – I mean, every team does. Nobody plays football anymore with just one run. There is a lot of multiple runs in there. You can have so many runs that you can’t run them all, right? The idea is to have the right ones and execute them well. The tape showed when what we talked about the other tied. We didn’t play really well up front. They had a lot of momentum. We got to do a better job preparing our guys, but we also got to do a better job in-game of making good decisions and putting ourselves in a situation to be successful or more successful at least.”

On senior OLB Robert Beal and if Smart believes the play vs. Carter was a chop block…

Robert has done a great job. He has one of the best plays in a game the other night on a goal line play where they almost scored. We ended holding them to a field goal. He is playing really physical, playing more snaps. He had more opportunities last year. Again, sacks are a number that statistics look at, but we don’t sit there and say – you don’t get a lot of opportunities. We haven’t had a lot of third down-and-longs. Had more last week than in the past maybe where you get an opportunity to do that. That’s just the way it’s gone this year. Very pleased with how Robert is playing, how he is practicing. He is playing more snaps now than he did last year in terms of at this time, because his opportunities came much later... Doesn’t really matter what I think about the block. What does it really matter? Matters what the official and the review thinks.”

On the recipe strong second-half finishes…

“It takes number one being in shape, physically in shape, mentally strong. Takes consistency and performance. You have to perform under great pressure repeatedly. It’s really more about playing on the road and having a demeanor about you that you understand regardless of where you’re playing in our league. The road games are really hard. I don’t think that’s ever going to change. You got to be prepared for that. Momentum is a very powerful thing. We didn’t have that for a long time in that game.”

On how to stay focused after a close game...

“I don’t look at it that way at all. I look at from day to day. I worry about what we’re doing today. Just like I’m going to worry about what we do tomorrow, tomorrow. I don’t look at it as a hitting slump or some kind of funk or anything like that. A lot of that is predicated off what the other team does and what we do. Very different teams we faced between Kent State in three down, Missouri and the way they played us. Just different things. So I just don’t really look at it that way.”

On WR Dominick Blaylock and the wide receiver group…

“They’re all different. Dom has been there the whole season. I don’t think it’s an integration factor. He’s been really clutch, and what he does he does really well. There are package plays for Dom and he does a nice job. His plays he made the other night were really clutch. A lot of the receivers made some. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint had some clutch plays and (WR Arian Smith) had the one catch. Getting him back and getting him some confidence is great, but we have to have some depth at that position and some guys make some plays at those positions.”

On injured receiver AD Mitchell and the passing game vs. Missouri…

“I think it was a different kind of game. There was a lot of opportunities for one or ones, and you have to win some of those opportunities. I think if you’re in third and long all game you’re not running the ball, you’re not managing the sticks real well, it puts you behind it. AD is hopeful again. He was close to being able to go we thought last week. We took him with the intention of seeing if he could go. Pre-game thought he looked pretty good, but didn’t feel comfortable putting him out there. We are hopeful he’s able to this week, and we don’t know until we get out there and get closer to the game. He is much closer this week than he was last week. Getting Arian back helped with that. All the reps the freshman got helped. Got to continue to get those guys better.”

On what to look out for vs. Auburn RB Tank Bigsby…

“He’s explosive. He is a great guy out of the backfield to catch the ball. He catches screens well. He is vertical on his run game. He is tough. Yards after contact. He’s one of those backs, that like the good ones, they get better with their carries. He’s extremely physical and runs with a low pad level, and is one of these particular SEC backs that you better bring your lunch pail when you come to tackle them.”

On the maturity/youth of the team…

“I think anxiety would be one of the things that you worry about with a young team in really the first real road environment, because the South Carolina game played out so different. We started really fast. I guess we were up 14-nothing, 21-nothing pretty quick. The crowd really never got into the game. Took them out of the game. We didn’t do that the other night. So some of those youthful anxiety guys playing in that kind of atmosphere for the first time, we’re a team – last year’s team, they would’ve played in that a bunch of times. There is a lot of youth there, but to be honest with you, it was a great opportunity to see what we’re about. I don’t know if you could find any greater adversity than be down 10 points to in the fourth quarter. Resiliency all those things, but we got to make sure we do a good job building on that and start faster and better.”

On if he wants to shore up the offensive line rotation…

“I don’t look at it as a trim up. Why would you trim up your offensive line? If you have guys that play quality football and go against good players every day in practice, I think they earned the right to get an opportunity, right? Who plays at receiver? Do we play three guys? Not last time I checked. Tight end, Brock (Bowers) and Darnell (Washington) rolled in with 11 personnel. You earn the right by how you play. If those guys continue to earn the right and play well, they’ll probably play. It has a lot to do with conditioning and stamina. You got guys coming off injuries out there, guys that hadn’t played a lot of football, and some guys have.

We want to play the best five, but if that’s not clear, we feel guys that can play winning football should play. I’m very pleased with that part of it. Can we do some better things in the run game to help them? Absolutely. Can they do a better job in the run game? Absolutely. But it’s not totally on the offensive line. It never is. It’s a team sport. Everybody wants to point the finger at them. They’re not to blame for anything. We all got to improve.”

On the status of LBs Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon and offensive line play…

“First one, Smael got an ankle sprain, but we think he’ll be fine. He came back in and finished out the game. Pop seems good. Seems fine. I don’t think there is anything there. I’ll find out today, but nothing that I’m aware of.

On the offensive line, it’s not a lack of execution or scheme. They didn’t play anything different. It’s physicality, winning up front, and more than that, giving them an opportunity to be successful. Sometimes that falls on me as a coach, on us as coaches, not just them. So it’s not a lack of execution. Sometimes you get whipped. Sometimes we got whipped and sometimes we didn’t. And when you didn’t, you got to capitalize. There is still some big runs in there and then we fumbled the ball on a big run. We had big runs in the fourth quarter. The offensive line you could say didn’t allow them to get the ball back. So that was a very big positive, when they had every guy on their team in the box and we blocked them and got first downs. So there is a lot of the positives, and we’ll draw on the ability to come back from that.”

On Tykee Smith at the STAR position and the status of DB Javon Bullard…

“Expecting to get Javon back this week. Tykee did a good job and he will continue to play star like he has in the previous games. Did a nice job practicing last week. Got a lot of confidence in Tykee. Gives us some depth at that position. They complement each other really well, and hope that both of them can help us.”

On coaching changes in college football earlier in the season…

“Yeah, it’s unfortunate. It’s become much more the nature of the beast for our profession with the salaries and television contracts and the amount of money people make. The expectations go up and administration makes decisions much quicker, and that’s their right to do it. It’s not necessarily the best thing for our profession, but it comes with the territory. I don’t think any of those coaches would tell you that they that they didn’t understand that getting into it, but they would also tell you they didn’t get into it for the amount of money they make either. For a lot of us it’s not about the money. It’s about the opportunity to be around young people, coach them, pull them in the right direction. We all know what’s at stake with these administrations and with the nature of the beast in college football right now.”

On the pregame skirmish between Georgia’s Jalen Carter, Nazir Stackhouse and Tramel Walthour and Missouri players...

“All I worry about is our guys’ behavior, and we don’t want to represent that at all. I think we have done a really good job here at Georgia of representing our university the right way. We play with our helmets and we don’t talk to the other team. Disappointed in any player that would talk to somebody on the other team, and we don’t condone it. It’s something we need to get fixed. Some teams you play do that more than others, and some teams are from the same line of thinking as yourself in terms of not talking after plays and not talking before games. I’m not saying that Missouri is. I am saying I’m worried about how our guys behave, and that’s not what we want.”

On the skill and smarts of DB Malaki Starks…

“His mental in between his ears gets him lined up, makes the checks, and helps him make decisions. I think his athleticism gives him confidence to be able to make plays. I don’t know exactly what you’re asking there. His mental intuition is what gets him on the field. His athleticism is what separates him from maybe the other players.”

On the challenge Auburn’s defense presents…

“They’re fast, physical, playing really hard. Two elite edge guys. Some athletic linebackers. They played really, really hard. I mean, just call it what it is. They scratch off and play with confidence. They’re flying around. I mean, I know almost every single player on that defense and they’re good football players.”

On the development of TE Darnell Washington…

“Well, since he got here he’s matured so much. He’s taken ownership in his role on the team. He’s a great ball-in-the-air guy. He is exceptional blocker. He has taken on his role in terms of displacement and movement on the perimeter, run game blocking, play-action, vertical passing. He’s really just a better football player because he’s bought into being in shape, bought into playing with toughness, he has bought into the team, and he has helped himself tremendously in terms of our team, helping us being a guy that can go get balls. Especially if you’re struggling outside, this guy can go make plays on the ball in the air. I thought he showed that and probably had his best game of his career on Saturday night when we needed him most.”

On former UGA DB Lewis Cine’s injury…

I reached out to him yesterday. I did not hear back. I think he was going to go into surgery and was staying back behind the team. Sickening to see, and a guy that I felt like I was so close to, certainly hurt me to see that. You don’t wish that upon anybody. Some of those injuries are part of the game, but just so sad. Such a great kid. He’ll bounce back from it.”