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‘That’s on me’: Bryan Harsin takes responsibility as Tigers suffer third straight loss
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AU FOOTBALL

‘That’s on me’: Bryan Harsin takes responsibility as Tigers suffer third straight loss

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As the face of the Auburn football program, Bryan Harsin understands what the Tigers do on a given Saturday – good and bad – is a reflection of him.

Harsin talked about Auburn’s recent struggles Saturday night after the Tigers fell to South Carolina 21-17, leaving the road squad with their longest losing streak since 2012. Harsin emphasized getting the job done in clutch situations, something Auburn has especially struggled with over the last month of the regular season.

Given his role, Harsin owned those issues as ultimately falling on him.

“[The in-week preparations] have to show up in the games. That’s on me,” Harsin said. “I’ve got to help this football team be more consistent with those, stay more focused on those, have the intensity and discipline to make sure those things we do week in and week out and the things we emphasize as a staff, they get done.”

Saturday’s loss to South Carolina offered an all-too-familiar feeling for the Tigers.

After blowing a 28-3 lead against Mississippi State last week, Auburn jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter against the Gamecocks only to watch as the lead disappeared. The Tigers’ second-half issues on offense were present once again: Auburn only scored three points after halftime, leaving the team with 12 points in the second half of their last five games.

There were, of course, some important factors to consider with Auburn’s issues Saturday night.

Auburn played without five starters in total, with quarterback Bo Nix and kicker Anders Carlson missing the game after suffering season-ending injuries last week and linebacker Owen Pappoe, wide receiver Kobe Hudson and offensive guard Brandon Council unable to suit up. The Tigers were breaking in backup quarterback TJ Finley in his first start for Auburn, and while the sophomore played well for the most part there were a few hiccups along the way.

The Tigers were also in position to cut South Carolina’s lead to 21-20 early in the fourth quarter when backup kicker Ben Patton missed a 25-yard field goal to the right.

Even with those fair caveats, the scene in Williams-Bryce Stadium was a difficult one for the Tigers.

As the game came to a close and South Carolina celebrated reaching bowl eligibility for the first time since 2018, Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer emphatically told the ESPN television crew that South Carolina repeatedly ran the same two plays in the second half of the action.

While Harsin reacted with surprise when told of Beamer’s claim, he acknowledged whatever the Gamecocks were doing was working.

“I think, just, they ran inside zone. They ran it hard. I know that was one of the two plays. They were able to get some yards on it. I thought we slowed that down,” Harsin said. “I don’t know what two plays exactly, but I know they were running inside and they were getting some yards on it and then they were running inside — I don’t know if this is considered the second play — but they were bouncing outside because their guys were doing a good job of getting outside of contain on a couple of runs.”

Harsin’s debut season has taken a turn in the month of November, as a promising 6-2 start has turned sour with three straight losses.

Auburn’s Iron Bowl matchup with No. 2 Alabama and a bowl game offer the Tigers two more chances to reassess and regroup. While Harsin didn’t shy away from taking some of the blame, he knows it will take more than just him to right the ship.

“It takes everybody to [become more consistent],” Harsin said. “As the head coach I have to make sure everybody does that. Then it’s ultimately got to happen in the game when you’ve got opportunities to go out there and execute whatever it is we’ve worked on that week, but execute it in the game.”

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