Two weeks ago, after the abysmal offensive showing against No. 2 ranked Clemson when Auburn only gained 117 total yards, quarterback Jarrett Stidham only passed for 79 yards and was sacked 11 times.
Auburn fans were ready to write off Stidham and with him, head coach Gus Malzahn.
The Baylor transfer started off rocky, but after giving whole control on the offense to Chip Lindsey and moving Lindsey up to the press box where he is most comfortable, Stidham has improved week-to-week.
Stidham had the second most efficient passing game in SEC history against Mercer, finishing 32-for-37 for 364 yards and at one point connecting on 18 consecutive passes, an Auburn record. This performance was largely over shadowed by the five turnovers, but Coach Malzahn recognized Stidham’s underlying success.
“You can see him progressing each week," Malzahn said. "I thought he did a very good job and he threw into some tight windows.”
Though Stidham’s success came against a FCS team in Mercer, his true test was SEC competition. This opportunity came against Missouri, where he shined in a dominating victory 51-14.
Stidham completed 13-of-17 passes for 218 yards and one touchdown. Stidham and the offense utilized the big play and did so quickly, with the first play of the game being a 58-yard pass to Kyle Davis. Stidham connected on a trio of 40+ yard passes, which now serve as Auburn's three longest passing plays of the season.
The quarterback did not only find his success in the deep ball, he found it when throwing on first down. Stidham was 5-for-5 for 166 yards and a touchdown on first down passes, with a passer rating of 444.9, the second best in the last 314 Auburn football games.
Malzahn knew it would not be immediate for Stidham to get used to the speed of the game.
"There's nothing like a real game," Malzahn said. "To go out there and play another team and different things that go with it and communication up front, communication with your teammates, taking command of the offense."
Early Heisman odds tabbed the redshirt sophomore as a dark horse favorite to win the award out of the SEC. After the loss to Clemson, those odds dropped tremendously. Stidham likely won't be able to climb back into Heisman conversation soon, however, wins over upstart Mississippi State and lowly Ole Miss could propel Auburn into an upcoming three-game road trip.
Stidham and the offense are heating up at just the right time, as Auburn heads into the bulk of conference play and is set to take on No. 24 Mississippi State and fellow dynamic quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. The showdown with the Bulldogs comes at a crossroads for Auburn, at which the team could trend drastically upward or fall back into "middle-of-the-pack" conversation.