In the aftermath of Auburn’s first loss of 2021, Tigers head coach Bryan Harsin and linebacker Chandler Wooten chose their words carefully.
It was no secret Saturday’s 28-20 loss to Penn State stung, but Harsin and Wooten took turns answering questions and explaining their perspective on the team’s first loss since New Year’s Day. Harsin harped on a number of things that could be improved, but overall his message was one of not letting the mistakes that cost Auburn linger any longer.
“Ultimately, from this point on, what do we do tomorrow? What’s the attitude, what’s the effort, what’s the focus that we’re going to get from this team?” Harsin said. “I think it’s something that you want to absorb and take in, and then you do everything in your power to not let that happen again. And, that’s everybody. Anytime — really, this should be every single week, in my opinion – is you go back and look at it, you’re always trying to do everything you can to put yourself in the best position.
“You’ve got to leave no stone unturned and prepare yourself in a way that you’re going there to win — not just be a part of it. I thought we had a lot of guys that prepared themselves to win. I think we’ve got to get better at that.”
Harsin’s push for improvement mirrored the message from Wooten, who was put in a challenging spot Saturday but performed well given the circumstances.
Auburn’s linebacker corps was decimated in the second half against the Nittany Lions thanks to Zakoby McClain’s ejection due to targeting and Owen Pappoe’s apparent injury, which put the onus on Wooten to make plays. The senior came through against Penn State by delivering 10 tackles, which left him tied for the game-high with Penn State linebacker Brandon Smith.
As well as Wooten played in the top-25 matchup, he made it obvious he was not content afterward.
“We’ve got to get better in every phase: offense, defense and special teams,” Wooten said. “We’ve got to capitalize on every moment we all have.”
Wooten spoke specifically about the defense and explained the Tigers played much better when they forced Penn State into third-and-medium or third-and-long situations. He explained he’s learned the team has a group of fighters and the sting of the loss is what every player should be feeling.
Auburn’s miscues Saturday night led players such as McClain and wide receiver Kobe Hudson to apologize on social media and vow for better results going forward. Those pledges are along the same lines as Harsin’s, who didn’t hesitate to acknowledge how much coming up short hurt.
Harsin arrived in Auburn with high expectations and an understanding his primary objective was helping the Tigers stand as national title contenders year after year.
While Harsin’s first game against a marquee opponent didn’t go in the Tigers’ favor, he explained his thinking about the future at Auburn remains the same.
“We came here and played a really good Penn State team on the road. We gave ourselves an opportunity to go win the game; those are games that you want to win. Those are the games that we came here to win,” Harsin said. “We didn’t come here to just play and be in the game; we came here to win the game. That’s going to be the mindset with everybody around in this program — not just showing up and playing well, but finding a way to win.
“The goal is a big part of that – if you want to be a championship team, you have to win on the road.”