AUBURN — Coach Bryan Harsin said after Auburn's 28-20 loss to Penn State that he needed to review the film before coming to a conclusion about Auburn's fourth-and-goal play call and what went wrong in its execution.
Quarterback Bo Nix threw an immediate fade to the back of the end zone, one of five options on the play. It fell nowhere near receiver Kobe Hudson, leaving the Tigers 2 yards short of having a chance to tie Penn State late.
Harsin was asked Monday if, after further review, he thought it was the right play call.
"That's a tough question there. Was it the right play call? It didn't work, so you know everybody's assumption on that," Harsin said. "But that's a good play. That's something that we've prepared. That's something down there in that situation that has been prepared, and that we've executed in practice and have done a good job of that. It's the first time we've had a chance to use it in a live game, so it's just a matter of time, right, before you have a chance to call that. But you work on it."
Harsin said the play just didn't work this time. But maybe fans will see it again.
"I'm not going to take you through the whole progression of it, but there are options on that play there, and I thought from the standpoint of having a good play, we did," Harsin said. "It didn't go our way. Obviously we've got to go back and look at why it didn't go our way. What we can do better, and how we improve in that situation right there."
Auburn (2-1), after playing in a Big Ten school's stadium for the first time since a 7-7 tie at Wisconsin in 1931, hosts Georgia State (1-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"We're going to be in that situation again," Harsin said. "We're going to be down there inside the 5-yard line with a fourth-and-goal of some kind. And we've got to find a way on fourth-down plays. When you're in those situations, it comes down to: You've got to make a play on fourth down. It's not ideal to be in a fourth-down situation. You like to put yourself in a position where you're converting on third downs, but on fourth downs, we have to have great plays."
Harsin said the Tigers need "to make great execution" next time in that situation.
"It didn't go our way. And credit to Penn State, too," Harsin said. "It's not just the play; Penn State did a good job. They had themselves in good position in a fourth-down call, whatever their call was. Those guys work those situations just like we do. There were opportunities there, and next time we've got to learn from it.
"We'll be in that situation again, and next time we need to have a better result."
Pappoe will return
One of the major obstacles Auburn football faced in the fourth quarter at Penn State was the absence of both starting linebackers. Senior Zakoby McClain was ejected for targeting, and junior Owen Pappoe didn't leave the sideline after the third quarter, affected by an apparent injury.
Harsin gave an update on Pappoe's status Monday. It seems the team captain is in good shape to play this weekend against Georgia State.
"Owen's doing good. He obviously came out of the game, but he's a tough guy and he's ready to go back and get after it," Harsin said. "So I feel good about his progress throughout this week. We'll know more on Tuesday of where he's at, how many reps he gets. And that's part of where we are in the season. It's not just our team. There's going to be guys that get nicked up in games, and you're going to have to manage that throughout the week. But they'll be ready to go come game time."