Head football coach Bryan Harsin spoke with the media on Monday to address the team’s 28-20 loss to Penn State on Saturday and preview their homecoming game against Georgia State.
Auburn’s opening pair of wins were dominant performances outscoring their opponents 122-10, which only served to extend the honeymoon period fans were enjoying with their new coach. Penn State was the reality check to end that period, and now Harsin is emerging from that defeat with a new perspective on how his team performs against true competition.
“We need to take away what we learned from this game, apply it to this week and use that as motivation going into the preparation that we need to have against a really good Georgia State team,” Harsin said.
In his opening comments, Harsin said there would be no recognition for players of the game. The team plans to do this only for victories, but he did credit players without naming them specifically.
One of few bright spots among the loss was the Tigers’ run game, spearheaded by Tank Bigsby and newcomer Jarquez Hunter. There were situations where it seemed they should have had a larger role in the game, but they capitalized on each opportunity given.
“We ran the ball in the red zone well," Harsin said. "We had some opportunities to do that again and there was a little bit of confusion there, when we got down into the red zone, but we’ve got to build off that. We’ve got to continue to keep developing the run game. I thought the O-line was a big part of that.”
A hot topic coming into the season was the experience Auburn was bringing across the offensive line and that was evident against Penn State. Despite record-breaking attendance and the legendary white-out game, the Tigers had minimal miscues among the noise.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Harsin’s philosophy on balance has been mentioned before: he wants to run the ball effectively and often, while still maintaining an offensive balance between the run and pass. Passing was a particular difficulty Saturday, with Auburn completing only one of ten in passes for more than twenty yards.
“I always think we want to run it as much as we can and you want to have balance," Harsin said. "I think those guys did a very good job. The O-line and the tight ends, those guys have blocked well. Run game wise, we felt good about some of the things we were doing.”
Harsin said he likes the development the team has made on both the line and the run game together, so they hope to continue building that tandem success. On the legs of some skilled running backs, this is consistency the team needs as they address the various shortcomings of the loss.
With last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year and a talented group of receivers in need of some playing time, an emphasis on the run game is hardly a bad thing. Fans watching the loss in Happy Valley were likely hoping to see it even more, especially when the team had little success in passing.
“Obviously, the big plays, the explosive plays, we’re not there," Harsin said. "That’s a big part of what we have to create. You’ve got to have more explosives than we had in this game. You can run the ball and have some explosive plays. You can put twelve, thirteen play drives together but you want to try to create some momentum.”
Quarterback Bo Nix’s performance was also something Harsin complemented. He credited Nix’s poise while also conceding that there were aspects of his game that they will work through the week to improve.
“Bo did a good job with all those things: getting the plays in, making sure that we had the right play call," Harsin said. "He checked a few plays, did a nice job of seeing things. There were some really positive things that came out of that, and in that environment, too.”
Another note on Nix was that Harsin seems to hold his quarterback to a realistic, attainable standard of game management. Fans tend to view the quarterback as the guy completely in charge on on-field management, but from a coach’s perspective, his job is much simpler.
“The quarterback’s job is not to have to go out there and have to manage every single guy on the field," Harsin said. "He has to do his job just like everybody else. The quarterback has his job to do and that’s what he needs to stay focused on."
Harsin’s final question was about how to validate the pain of a loss while also using it as an opportunity to grow moving forward. He emphasized closing the book on losses and shifting the focus to preparation for Georgia State.
“I think that there’s that sting that we didn’t get the job done," Harsin said. "We didn’t accomplish the mission that we set out to accomplish. You’ve got to move on. You can’t let the last game beat you twice.”
Looking ahead, the 2-1 Tigers will face the Georgia State Panthers in a 3 p.m. CST matchup in Jordan-Hare Stadium. This week’s game with be airing on the SEC Network.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman