Auburn's Stidham continues to impress with win over Mississippi State
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Jarrett Stidham dropped deep into Auburn's end zone and launched the ball down the field.
Boom, as coach Gus Malzahn would say. A seemingly high-risk play went 57 yards to Eli Stove in the third quarter and No. 12 Auburn wound up with a 99-yard drive to all but put away Mississippi State in Saturday night's 49-10 victory.
It was a sign of growing trust in a quarterback who has been earning it.
''We have a lot of confidence, and I think that play kind of showed it,'' Stidham said after the game. ''Up front. In the backfield. Out wide. Everybody is starting to really have that confidence of how good this offense can really be. It's exciting. It's great to see.''
Especially for Auburn fans who haven't had such a productive, efficient passer since Cam Newton won the 2010 Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to the national title. It's what they were hoping for when Stidham arrived in January.
''Our offense has full faith in him,'' said tailback Kerryon Johnson, who has run for eight touchdowns the past two games. ''Our coaches have full faith in him. And he's getting into his groove now, and I think he can be scary the rest of the year.''
The Tigers have been scary the past two games, including a 51-14 win over Missouri. They hadn't won back-to-back Southeastern Conference games by 30-plus points in 30 years.
The offense produced just 117 yards against No. 2 Clemson a few weeks ago. The 11 sacks allowed in that game would have made that end zone pass almost unthinkable before an offensive line shuffling.
Stidham has completed at least 75 percent of his passes in each of the last three games. He was 32 of 37 against Mercer, then 13 of 17 and 13 of 16 in the past two games.
Stidham has also passed for 836 yards in those three games with an array of big plays. The former Baylor quarterback has made big leaps since fairly pedestrian performances in the first two games, including passing for just 79 yards against Clemson.
Plus, Stidham hadn't played in two seasons after spending last fall at a Texas junior college with no football program, so a slow start wasn't particularly surprising. The Tigers also have a new offensive coordinator in Chip Lindsey.
''I think you see him every week getting more and more comfortable,'' Malzahn said. ''We're protecting him. The guys are making plays, and our receivers are growing up. They're making plays down the field, and I think that is all starting to come together. He's starting to get more comfortable with Chip, and Chip is starting to get more comfortable with him. The last two or three weeks in a row have been very efficient.''
Stidham also had four passes of at least 47 yards against Mississippi State. Sean White, who started 16 games the past two seasons, had a long pass play of 48 yards in his career. White was dismissed from the team this season.
Stidham brings a deep ball that has been missing in Auburn's offense but also prides himself on efficiency. An offense with a young receiving corps and injury problems for tailbacks Johnson and Kamryn Pettway appears to be hitting its stride, with Stidham leading the way.
Next week, the Tigers hope for repeat performance when they host Mississippi (2-2).
''There's so much talent on this offense,'' he said. ''I believe that. Everybody else on the offense believes that. The coaches believe that. It's just a matter of us executing the gameplan each week. I think the last few weeks we've really come far especially from the first two weeks.''
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