There’s nothing like the real thing after being away for nearly two years.
Auburn football head coach Gus Malzahn addressed concerns for Jarrett Stidham’s inexperience Tuesday afternoon, as the transfer quarterback relapsed on what were described as easily fixed flaws in Auburn's season-opening win over Georgia Southern.
“Really the biggest thing that stood out to me is him just needing experience -- a guy that hasn’t played in 600 days or something,” he said. “There were some times where he was holding the ball too long. There were certain things and certain looks that maybe weren’t as open as we thought they’d be.”
Throwing for 185 yards, two touchdowns and interception, Stidham added 17 rushing yards with a 14-yard touchdown trot to boot. His fumble early in the game gifted the Eagles’ their lone touchdown.
“You’re going to see he settled in as the game went along, just getting comfortable,” wide receiver Ryan Davis said. “You’ve got to think, the man didn’t play a lot of games in two plus years. It was just all about us as a team just getting behind him saying ‘Relax, calm down, you haven’t played in a long time, the game will come to you.’”
Davis caught a 19-yard pass from Stidham in the third quarter -- tied with Sal Cannella and Will Hastings for longest on the night -- and fought for a touchdown to make it 31-7.
“He was able to execute at a high level,” Davis said, “and you’re going to see, from this week to next week, he’s going to make a tremendous jump and his level of game is just going to keep on elevating.”
After serving a three-game suspension, Sean White will remain Auburn’s No. 2 quarterback barring an injury to Stidham. Despite Devin Adams getting some playing time, freshman Malik Willis will serve as backup barring any long-term injury, Malzahn said.
“He’ll be back week three and we expect him to be ready to go,” he said.
Tied with the lead in rushing, Kerryon Johnson left the game with an apparent hamstring injury. Malzahn maintained that, despite a diagnosis, no timetable is presented for his return.
“He didn’t practice Sunday,” he said. “We are hopeful, but that is the best status I can give you right now. Later in the week I’ll know more.”
With Johnson’s absence, Kamryn Pettway is ready and will be “fresh and in good shape” for a return Saturday at Clemson. Kam Martin, who boasted a 136-yard performance, will serve as Pettway’s backup alongside Malik Miller.
In preparation for Clemson’s boisterous atmosphere Saturday night, Malzahn looks to be ready for a defensive line that is “one of the best in college football.”
“He played well last year against us,” Malzahn said of Clemson’s standout defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. “He’s not the only one. Their defensive front, like I said, I believe it’s one of the top in the country and when you turn on the film, it doesn’t take long to figure that out. It’ll be a big test for our guys up front.”
Lawrence had seven tackles and a sack in his first game in a Clemson uniform last season as the eventual national champions escaped Jordan-Hare with a 19-13 victory.
“Obviously, it was a tough loss last year and we’ve got a lot of guys back and they happen to be the defending national champions, and we’re going to their home field,” Malzahn said. “That’s the only thing on our mind. Nothing about last week. Everything moving forward is Clemson and that’s really about it.”