Auburn’s mistakes, Alabama defeat moves will live in Iron Bowl infamy

Auburn fans had been so eager to get rid of Gus Malzahn for so long, that it was almost an afterthought on what was to come for their program.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a hair’s breadth away from winning a national title in 2013. It doesn’t matter if you beat Alabama three times in eight years. It doesn’t matter five top-25s. There was an urgent need after a COVID-19 season to pay Malzahn a $ 21.45 million buyout to leave because… well? We’re sure Auburn had his reasons, even if they were absurd.

But when a school makes such a spectacular training move, firing the coach is only half the battle. The next step is to find someone who can do the job better.

And in that regard, Auburn failed as much as any school could.

It never made sense on any level why Auburn hired Bryan Harsin last year. His seven-year run at Boise State was good, but not amazing. He had never been in the SEC. He had only spent two years as an assistant in a Power Five program. And dropping it in an environment like Auburn, which favors the extreme end of the crazy SEC spectrum, was riskier than a plate of undercooked turkey.

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And as Harsin’s first season draws to a close, let’s just say that both parties wish they could take a mulligan.

Not only is Harsin a weird cultural fit whose top recruiting class currently ranks 11th in the SEC by, he’s 6-6 with three straight double-digit leads.

None of them stung more than Saturday’s 24-22 overtime loss to Alabama, a game Auburn had in the sack until a string of errors at the end of the settlement and some decisions coaches who will live in the infamy of Iron Bowl.

To be fair, Auburn’s 10-0 lead in the fourth quarter was as much due to Alabama’s incompetence as it was to Auburn’s brilliance. But Harsin’s side had every chance to win this game and give a totally different feel to a disappointing season.

Instead, Auburn kept trying to throw the ball as it was clear quarterback TJ Finley was limping over an injury and allowed Alabama an extra 40 seconds when Tank Bigsby thoughtlessly went out of bounds with 1:47 to do. Needing a first try to finish the game, Auburn shot on thirds and 1s, was pushed back, then had to return the ball to Alabama with enough time for Bryce Young to make a 97-yard touchdown to send the match. at overtime.

But Harsin’s biggest managerial sin came in first overtime when he chose to score an extra point after a touchdown to extend the game rather than somehow ending it with a two point conversion.

It was an absurd call from Harsin on several levels. First off, Auburn had nothing to lose as a big underdog and a 6-5 team. Second, you play in Alabama with an injured quarterback and a steam-working defense. You are more likely to win by making three yards on a play than surviving more overtime. Third, with the new college football rules, two point conversions are likely to decide the game anyway if you go over an extra hour.

Instead of taking the chance when he could have, Auburn never had another play to win the game and lost on a two-point conversion in fourth overtime.

So Auburn ends Harsin’s first season at 6-6, and Auburn isn’t the kind of place that tolerates 6-6 for very long. Auburn would be happy if he could land a job on the West Coast, but that seems unlikely despite how vigorously Harsin’s camp pursued these opportunities. Paying Harsin’s $ 17.8 million buyout, after what they had to pay for Malzahn, is unlikely, even for Auburn.

So it looks like they’re stuck with each other, even though 2021 went as badly as it gets after Auburn lost a 28-3 lead to Mississippi State and a 14-0 lead last week. against South Carolina.

Auburn fans might have been tired of Malzahn, but his basic skill level both in the field and in recruiting was so superior to that, it would be insulting to compare the two.

This gives Auburn the top spot in the final 2021 Misery Index, a weekly measure of gut reactions based on what every fanbase just watched.

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