Auburn’s starting quarterback is taking a great deal of blame for the Tigers’ (4-2, 1-2 SEC) horrid offensive showings against conference opponents for a multitude of reasons.
Jarrett Stidham doesn’t look like the preseason All-SEC second team quarterback who became the program’s second 3,000-yard passer last season.
His completion percentage, which led the conference at 66.5 in 2017, has dipped to 60.1. His deep ball, which was vaunted for being one of the best in the league, has been erratic, most notably so in the team’s 23-9 loss to Mississippi State over the weekend. On a perfect play design, he overthrew a wide-open Darius Slayton on a sure-fire touchdown.
But Stidham isn’t throwing in the towel. To him, along with the rest of the Tigers leadership, the season isn’t anywhere near over.
“We have to take this one game at a time,” Stidham said. “Obviously, we’ve lost two games in the West, but there’s still a lot of ball left to play this year. And we were kind of sitting in this same spot last year. A lot of people counting us out, that sort of thing.”
After a 3-point first half, Auburn’s offense improved in the second, racking up 225 yards and rattling off effective drive after effective drive. Problem was, the Tigers couldn’t finish.
Whether it be an overthrow, a missed field goal, a fumble at the goal line or a dropped pass, Auburn couldn’t get out of its own way.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
“I think, just from what I can recall off the top of my head, we left 21 points out on the field,” Stidham said. “And that obviously would have helped us win the game. And, you know, those plays, they hurt whenever you watch them on Sunday, but at the same time, you’ve got to put it in the past, and you’ve got to go to work.”
Offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey resounded those same views Sunday, saying the team should have scored at least 30 points. He also attributed the lost production to offensive blunders.
However, as the QB1, it all boils down to Stidham, whom Lindsey admitted may be pressing and putting pressure on himself.
The redshirt junior has just one touchdown to two interceptions in conference play. Stidham is being forced to be the primary play-maker in an offense reliant on his skillset, considering the rushing attack failed to produce 100 yards for the third straight game for the first time since 1999 against Miss State.
Gus Malzahn obviously wants to have an effective running game but plans on tailoring the team’s approach on a game-by-game basis.
“I think the best way to answer that is every game will be a little bit different,” Malzahn said when asked if the team is leaning toward a pass-first approach. “From a coaches’ standpoint, give your guys the best chance to be successful every game is different because their personnel is different and their strengths are different.”
Midway through the season, Stidham is ninth in the conference in passing yards (1177) and Auburn’s offense is 12th in total production — in front of lowly SEC bottom-feeders Arkansas and Tennessee.
An inexperienced offensive line that has allowed 10 sacks in the past three outings hasn’t made things easy. But for the offense to right the ship, Stidham must go back to the drawing board and analyze what has made this season worse than the last.
And he’s recognized that. Stidham said the same throws he’s been missing downfield as of late, he’s made time after time in practice.
"I’m the one with the ball in my hands every play," Stidham said. "And I’ve got to play a lot better. I think that’s first and foremost. For our offense to be as successful as it’s going to be, I’ve got play a lot better. And I know that, and I’m working as hard as I can to improve every week."
Stidham and the Auburn offense will look to regroup against Tennessee inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The team’s annual “Stripe the Stadium” game is set to kick off at 11 a.m. CST.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman