Auburn’s perfect record at Kyle Field came to an end Saturday, and the Tigers’ SEC West hopes were dealt a blow in a 20-3 loss to Texas A&M.
Despite a stalwart performance from Auburn’s defense, which did not allow a touchdown on the road to a top-15 team, the Tigers were unable to overcome a woeful offensive performance against the Aggies and kicked off the final month of the regular season with a whimper. Auburn (6-3, 3-2 SEC) now needs to win out and have Texas A&M (7-2, 3-2) drop another game in order to keep its hopes of a division crown alive.
Read more Auburn football: Instant analysis: Auburn sputters in 20-3 loss to Texas A&M
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Harsin didn’t consider another second-half quarterback change against Texas A&M
After the game, Auburn coach Bryan Harsin met with the media via Zoom to discuss his team’s performance. A full video of Harsin’s postgame press conference is embedded at the top of this story, with a full transcript of his remarks below:
Opening statement…
“First thing, I’m disappointed in the result of the game, obviously, and Texas A&M’s a good team; they showed that. Their defense played well. They played physical. I thought it was a physical game today by both sides. The score being three points (apiece) for however long it was, it was just a matter of time before somebody was going to be able to put some points on the board. So, it comes back to playing good football and it comes back to taking care of the ball and being able to be in a positive category on turnovers and all the factors that come with being on the road, too.
“You got to play good. We didn’t play well enough to win today. A&M was a good team. There’s things we have to go back and focus on. Same things that we talk about every single week; it doesn’t change. It’s a matter of doing those things consistently week in and week out. So, plenty of opportunities for us to learn from this and be a better football team, but it’s disappointing. The guys are obviously hurt, just as far as not performing the way that we wanted to. That’s what we have to make sure we go back and look at it and learn from and use that going into this next week as we prepare for the next game.
“So, questions.”
On Auburn’s offensive line rotation today…
“We’ve done that a little bit throughout the season already, so that’s been part of the formula, getting some guys in there that deserve to play and getting some guys in there that we feel are a little more fresh, at times. I don’t know all the different rotations; Coach Friend handles that, but it’s something that we’ve done. And against a good team up front like A&M and still being a team that wants to run the football, having some guys in there that can help us do that, that was part of that plan.”
On Auburn’s offensive struggles…
“A&M’s good, that’s one. They’re a good team. We knew that coming into the game. I just don’t think we found that play, that momentum, that spark to really get us—on the offensive side in particular—to get us going. And we had our opportunities, and you know, there was plenty of self-inflicted wounds that we had in there: dropped passes, we lost the ball — we fumbled it. Obviously, they scored on defense, which is a big part of it. So, there were plenty of things that we can control that we didn’t help ourselves with, and, you know, that hurt our offense, hurt our team. The defense, I thought, played well through the game. A&M had some big plays. They had a couple explosives in there. They hit some runs. Those things are going to happen throughout a game. I thought the defense recovered well, did some good things in the red zone.
“But yeah, we put the ball on the ground, and A&M’s defense was able to score and that becomes a factor in the game. And then, we miss a field goal in the red zone as well, and every point — all points matter in games like this. So, you know, it comes down to some execution. It comes down to creating some momentum. That’s what we’ve been able to do from what you’re asking, and we didn’t create that momentum to really get us going and to get the drive going the way we need to and having those type of plays we had in the past.”
On Texas A&M’s running back tandem of Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane
“Well, I mean, that’s part of — you’re talking about A&M’s?
“Yeah, that’s part of their formula. They’re going to play both players. We knew that, and they were able to hit some inside runs. I don’t know the whole reason why they were able to do that; you know, their o-line’s probably doing a good job. I know that we misfit a couple plays, the backs found it. When you play good tailbacks that are going to get downhill and vertical, you’ve got to be able to fill those gaps and play downhill like we did most of the night. But there were some explosive runs in there, some long runs that you want to eliminate on the defensive side. You keep making them early, and they might get three or four yards. You keep making them earn those yards, and we gave up some explosive plays in the run game. We knew those tailbacks were going to find it. If you give an opportunity to a crease, those guys can do things. And also, I think they created some plays, too. But their o-line up front played well. Tailbacks found creases and took advantage of it. You know, we recovered in some of those, but we had to do a better job of not letting that happen.
On Auburn’s inability to run the ball consistently…
“We didn’t really get a lot going consistently. That was overall what I saw tonight. The run game is part of that. You’ve got to be able to run the ball. The run game allows us to be able to set up the pass game and give ourselves a chance to have a clean pocket as well. We’ve been able to do that in the previous games. That didn’t happen tonight. We just didn’t have that same type of momentum in the run game. We knew their guys are good up front. We need to do a better job of just, for our offensive line, sustaining and maintaining those blocks and then the tailbacks going and getting 3, 4, 5 yards. And I think the same thing that we saw from A&M, we could get some consistency in the run game. There were going to be some plays that we were going to pop. I thought we were very close. But also, A&M was tackling well, they were making plays when we got a chance to kind of bounce and get in some space. But yeah, the run game’s got to be more consistent. We need to be able to run the football, that’s part of what we want to do each and every game. It helps all the other things out that we’re trying to do, and we didn’t do it well tonight.
On the game swinging on just a few plays…
“I think it’s always that. It’s always those four to six plays that happen in a game that change the momentum of the game. One that you don’t know when they’re going to happen, you’ve just got to be ready for them. Thats why everybody always talks about four quarters of football. You just never know when those things are going to happen. So you want to play consistent. You want to play good football. We didn’t have enough explosive plays; they had a few. They were able to create the momentum.
“The big one is when we fumble the ball and they’re able to score on defense. Thats a big play. That’s a momentum changer right there and you’ve got to be able to recover from that. What has to happen is when things go against you, you’ve got to find a way to recover. You’ve got to come back. That series is over. We’re onto the next drive. We’ve got to execute there; we’ve got to get ourselves back into the game, and we weren’t able to do that.
“We weren’t consistent enough to be able to overcome some of those plays tonight that were negative plays for us. And if you’re going to win games, especially in this league, you’ve got to overcome those plays. Things are going to happen. There’ll be negative plays, but you’ve got to be able to respond, come back, create your own positive plays, move the ball, respond to what happened, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
On the play at quarterback and if he considered benching Bo Nix for T.J. Finley…
“Yea, that’s hard to answer without really watching exactly what happened. I think on the sideline, we all think we know what happened and then we go back and study the film and it was completely different. There were other factors in there, the guy was covered. It was a physical game tonight. The receivers have to separate. I thought the officials were letting the guys play and that was part of the game tonight. It was going to be a physical game. It was going to be a physical game even on the perimeter in coverage. There’s also those factors in there as well. Is the guy getting open, is there an opportunity for a throw, what’s making us hold onto the ball in the pocket? Those are some of the things that I don’t have an answer for you right now.
“As far as the momentum goes, I felt like Bo could get us back in the game, that we could get that spark. That’s something that he’s shown and that we’ve done throughout the season, we just didn’t get it. We had some penalties. We had some things that we didn’t help ourselves with. We had a couple of drops in some critical situations. About the time you’re trying to get some momentum, you’re moving the ball, you’re kinda getting ready to get past the 50-yard line and make some plays, hopefully on that side of the field and can get us in scoring position, and we just weren’t able to do that.
On defense’s performance on third downs and in the red zone…
“I think our defense was swell-up in the red zone. And I think we did well on 3rd-down situations tonight for the most part. When they were able to move the ball down the field, we did swell up in the red zone. Did a good job there. I thought there were some good things. It was a 3-3 game for three quarters tonight. The defense is playing well. The Texas A&M defense is playing well. And the offenses are trying to find some rhythm, find something to put some points on the board. So for us, we’ve got to find a way to score. After a while, there’s going to be some point there’s going to be some momentum. Someone’s going to get a touchdown. Someone is going to create more points.
“Our defense was doing some really good things on third down and in the red zone tonight. We’ve got to work as a team together. We’ve got to create points from an offensive standpoint to keep ourselves in the game. It’s just a matter of time before the score changes. But overall, I thought the defense, besides a few explosive plays, they played well. We knew A&M would make some plays. We did swell up in the red zone, did some good things there. We’ve been doing that so we can build from that there. But overall as a team, we’ve got to come together and play better as a team to win games like this.”
Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.
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