In football, the true character of the team appears in the second half of difficult matches.
How well is the team’s off-season training? Is the second team suitable? Can a coach adapt to a worthy opponent?
All of these things are revealed when the paint is no longer fresh on the helmets and the lungs are hot. The advantage of local stadiums helps, too, and the Auburn Football Tigers got their hands on on Saturday as they kicked off the second half against Penn State.
Auburn only trailed Penn State 14-6 in the first half. what happened after that? Auburn was revealed, winning 27-6 in the second half for a loss that determined the program 41-12 against the first Big Ten to play at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
All went well for Auburn that second half, and the team seemed untrained to fight. It was easy for everyone to see.
Everyone except Auburn coach Brian Harsen apparently.
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The situation in Auburn is worse than I could have imagined. The guy in charge seems to think he’s doing a good job coaching his team, and that the players are the problem.
Three games into his second season, Harsin has mastered the art of excuses and finger-pointing, but I think that’s what happens when the league starts an internal investigation and then doesn’t follow up with the idea of the whole thing.
A good boss takes the blame after a bad loss. They own it. At the press conference on Monday after an embarrassing Saturday of football in Auburn, Harsin served his ego by speaking to reporters and shifting the weight of responsibility away from himself. To hear him say it, Harsin is above accountability for what happens during the games.
The coach said that preparation was not the problem, it was all the players and their mistakes.
Harsin blamed his players about a dozen times for not carrying out the “execution” with abhorrent levels of sadness and blackouts.
This long and rambling Auburn Day justification of blunders explains all about Harsin’s disrespect for those around him.
“It’s not necessarily the mentality of the team,” Harsin said. “There was a mess, and there were things we didn’t do right. This is the piece of execution. This is the part where I’m talking about execution is the key.”
“If you have to be in a gap, you’re in a gap. If you have to cover a man, you cover the man. If you have to run the right way, you run the right way. And that has nothing to do with the mindset. This is simply doing the job you’re supposed to do.” out.
“There are 11 guys who have a mission…You have to do your job. When you don’t and someone reveals it to you, that’s when things happen. Then you wonder why there’s a big play or they go so far or we don’t have someone in the apartment when the quarterback is thrown .
“It wasn’t designed that way, so if we do what was designed, we have a better chance of executing our plays and it will work better and at least give ourselves a chance. For me, that’s what it really is. It’s about execution, not mentality and all those things that create Drama”.
That is to say, Harsin is either blind to the smell of the huge piles of horse dung that he hoists over his shoulder, or he hasn’t seen the same second half as I did.
Auburn’s defense, once a record holder for SEC toughness, allowed Penn State appearances to earn nine yards per carry in the second half. Meanwhile, Auburn gave up her running (team strength) career, and put in the quarterback.
Football in Auburn, after two warm-up games to start the season, is not a mystery anymore. The team is weak and ill-equipped for the rigors of second-half football just as the competition in SEC begins. That’s the coach’s fault, and it speaks volumes about something bigger than Penn State’s single loss. In his last five matches against Power 5 competitors, Auburn has edged out 94-18 in the second half.
Coach, the car isn’t down. It’s out of gas.
In a game between two struggling teams, Auburn (2-1) plays Missouri (2-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Jordan Hare Stadium. He favors Auburn by seven points, but has now lost six straight games against teams that haven’t paid back after the victory.
How far has Auburn fallen over the past five years? Since 2018, the Tigers are 2-8 against teams from SEC East. The only victories against SEC East teams during that period were in the unprecedented 2020 pandemic season as SEC teams played all 10 games against opponents in the conference. Gus Malzahn’s final season in Auburn featured wins over Kentucky and Tennessee.
Not bad in hindsight. Not nearly the level of success Auburn demands of a football team. Malzahn at least knew how to put his players in positions to win, and didn’t blame the staff for improper schemes.
No wonder quarterback Bo Knics left for Oregon and defense coordinator Derek Mason withdrew to Oklahoma State. They saw what was going to happen before anyone else because they were on the inside and knew the truth.
How could a team play as badly as Auburn played against Penn State? It has nothing to do with the game plan. A loss like that starts with the coach and how he built and coached his team months before the season.
Auburn’s true character was revealed under Harsin in those agonizing moments after the first half, and it was a very honest accounting for an unprepared football team.
Joseph Goodman Columnist For Alabama Media Group, author We Want Bama: A Season of Hope and the Making of Nick Saban’s Ultimate Team. You can find it on Twitter Tweet embed.
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