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LEE: Fool me once, shame on you
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COMMENTARY

LEE: Fool me once, shame on you

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The athletes deserve better.

There’s your start. If you’re trying to digest this game — and, yeah, this whole past month — that’s where you begin.

And yes, they deserve better than that bum review call from the officials on the game-deciding turnover. The athletes at least deserve a better explanation than the one they got, if the replay booth had access to some camera angle that the ESPN broadcast couldn’t air. TJ Finley deserved at least a chance to lead Auburn back on another game-winning touchdown drive.

But they all deserve better. They don’t deserve to be put in that situation. Tank Bigsby might have put forward the most inspired performance by an Auburn player in a loss since Kenny Irons at LSU in 2005.

And he got two carries in the second quarter. On what proved to be Auburn’s last gasp, a series before the ‘muffed’ punt starting with 5:29 left, Bigsby didn’t even touch the ball.

Auburn unfathomably blew a 25-point lead to Mississippi State allowing 40 unanswered points, and now Auburn’s blown a 14-point lead to South Carolina giving up a 21-3 run.

This after Bryan Harsin has spent a career preaching consistency.

Where is it?

If that’s your biggest strength — the toughness talk, the discipline talk — what else do you got?

That’s the question Harsin has to answer after following up a blown lead with another blown lead, and losing three straight games, which is something his predecessor never did.

Can he find the answer? Yes, he can. I seem to say that in this space every week now. Of course it’s possible.

But it’s not about finding ‘tougher’ players, or ‘more disciplined’ players, or players who ‘love football’ more. These guys have shown they have what it takes to win these games. They proved that by going up 28-3 on Mississippi State and going up 14-0 on South Carolina. They had the talent to take the lead and the talent didn’t leave halfway through the game.

Beside the point, there will be no waiting on Harsin to bring in ‘his’ players. We all know what we all know: He ain’t got that kind of time.

Harsin can’t wait on a full roster turnover to build the program his way. It takes four years for a roster to cycle through. In four years, if he’s 0-8 against Georgia and Alabama, he’s either on the hot seat or already packing up. That’s just how things are.

Is he on the hot seat now? Surely not. But where’s the number? How many losses to Georgia and Alabama do you get before you’re gone? Maybe it’s only six. It’s probably not as high as 10. It’s low. And he’s got between now and that magic number to win a rivalry game — and to win a rivalry game between then and now, he’s going to have to work with the players he has.

Like I said, it’s beside the point, because these players have what it takes to take winnable games like these.

They deserve better.

Yes, you can blame the officials on a targeting call against Mississippi State, if you want. Yes, you can blame the officials for the special teams turnover against South Carolina.

But the athletes deserve better than to be put in those situations.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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