Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

With Auburn’s bowl outlook becoming tense, Gus Malzahn sticks with Jarrett Stidham for better or worse

5 Comments

If any Auburn fan was even thinking that the time has come for Auburn to make a change at quarterback after the Tigers suffered their second loss at home and their third loss overall this season, Gus Malzahn isn’t having it. Malzahn confirmed this week Jarrett Stidham will remain the starting quarterback for the Tigers as they look to turn things around in the second half of the regular season and try to avoid finishing the year in the bottom half of the SEC West.

Jarrett Stidham will be our starting quarterback,” Malzahn said this week, according to Al.com. “He needs to protect the football better; he understands that, but I do have confidence in him and I think he’ll lead us in the right way moving forward.”

After seven games, Stidham is the SEC’s 10th-rated quarterback in passer rating with 1,499 passing yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. Last season, Stidham had 3,158 passing yards with 18 touchdowns to six interceptions. Stidham passed for 322 yards and two touchdowns but had two interceptions and a fumble in Auburn’s home loss to Tennessee last weekend.

After the loss to Tennessee, Malzahn said he would begin assessing all areas of the team and make adjustments where he feels they are needed (similar to Miami head coach Mark Richt and his approach after Miami’s second loss of the year; Miami has since made a QB change).

Stidham is overwhelmingly Auburn’s most experienced quarterback, so making any changes would have been a bit surprising. Freshman Cord Sandberg has appeared in just one game this year, attempting and completing one pass for 22 yards. Sophomore Malik Willis has appeared in three games, completing one of two attempts for three yards.

Auburn, already at 1-3 in the SEC standings, will play at Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon. The Rebels are 5-2 and could deal a tough blow for Auburn’s chances of becoming bowl-eligible. Auburn still has home games against Texas A&M and Liberty and road games against Georgia and Alabama this season. Auburn must win two of their remaining games in order to go to a bowl game, and a loss to Ole Miss could make those home games against the Aggies and Liberty must-win games.

It’s going to be Stidham’s job to get Auburn to a bowl game.

Auburn loses two turnovers but leads Tenenssee at halftime

Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
Leave a comment

It has not been the sharpest half of football for the Auburn Tigers, but the home team finds themselves up 17-13 against a Tennessee team looking to score an upset this afternoon. The Tigers lost two turnovers, the second of which quickly led to a game-tying touchdown at the time, but a big touchdown play of their own has given Auburn the lead after one half of play.

Bryce Thompson‘s interception of Jarrett Stidham early in the second quarter led to a game-tying touchdown by the Volunteers five plays later. Jarrett Guarantano completed a 42-yard pass to Ty Chandler for a touchdown./

Auburn wasted no time opening the scoring in the game by driving down the field for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession, but the Vols responded with a field goal on the ensuing possessions. Auburn added to their early lead with a field goal on their next offensive series and remained up by seven when the special teams blocked Tennessee’s second field goal attempt.

Tennessee’s defense came up with a big play with the Thompson interception but the defense got burned by the speed of Anthony Schwartz on Auburn’s next possession late in the second quarter. After catching a short route, Schwartz broke a tackle and took off down the right sideline for a blazing fast 76-yard touchdown.

Stidham has passed for 182 yards, 76 of which came on that long touchdown catch and run by Anthony Schwartz, his lone catch of the game. Tennessee has managed to hang around but still has to capitalize a little bit on any opportunities given to them by Auburn in the second half. This one is still anyone’s game, but the Vols have struggled to win these types of battles.

No. 9 Auburn grinds out 21-16 win over No. 6 Washington, dealing Pac-12 early playoff punch

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
4 Comments

No. 9 Auburn (1-0) managed to win a physical and defensive battle against the best the Pac-12 had to offer. The Tigers, fueled by three field goals by Anders Carlson and two key Washington turnovers took home a 21-16 victory over No. 6 Washington in Atlanta in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed 26 of 36 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Washington’s Jake Browning had a rough afternoon at times, but he did throw for 296 yards and a touchdown. Browning had one pass intercepted though, and a fumbled football in the third quarter from just outside the goal line came back to bite him and the Huskies.

Washington was primed to take a lead before the Browning fumble, but it was Washington’s defense that kept the game within reach for the entire game. Auburn could never find a true knockout blow against Washington until getting a game-winning touchdown on their last full possession of the game.

With Washington working their way to a 16-15 lead following a field goal, Stidham led the Tigers on a touchdown drive traveling 76 yards over 10 plays. JaTarvious Whitlow finished the drive with a 10-yard run, putting the pressure on Washington to find their way back to the end zone. Washington’s last chance on offense ended on a fourth down with 16 yards to go with Browning being sacked by Smoke Monday.

Much will be made about how this severely damages the Pac-12’s chances of getting a College Football Playoff representative at the end of the season, and it is understandable why that would be. Washington may have needed this win more than Auburn might, given the current standings of the SEC and Pac-12. The margin for error in the Pac-12 has been pretty thin the last few seasons, and a win against a top 10 team essentially on the road would have been a nice feather in the cap for the Huskies. But it’s just one game, and the entire college football season still pretty much has to be played. But Washington may not be able to afford another loss the rest of the season, where Auburn now has one of the top wins of the very early season.

Both Auburn and Washington will play their home openers next week against FCS competition. Auburn will host Alabama State, and Washington plays host to North Dakota.

Auburn kicks their way to halftime lead on Washington in Atlanta

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

You want some defensive football? You are getting it in Atlanta this afternoon. No. 9 Auburn holds a 15-13 lead on No. 6 Washington at halftime. Auburn kicker Anders Carlson has converted three field goals to help put points on the board for the Tigers.

Auburn’s defense set the tone on the first series of the game, forcing Washington to go three-and-out without picking up any yards, and the Tigers offense got to work on a short field thanks to a 32-yard punt return by Ryan Davis. Jarrett Stidham connected with Sal Cannella from 10 yards out for a touchdown thanks to an incredible effort by Canella to leap into the air to bring the ball down in the end zone.

Auburn’s Jamel Dean picked off a pass from Jake Browning on the next offensive series for the Huskies, which led to an Auburn field goal to take a 9-0 lead. It was a rough start for Washington, but it could have been worse. Washington got on the board on their next drive with a field goal.

Washington hopes to capitalize on a late momentum swing courtesy of a quick offensive touchdown drive, highlighted by a wonderful sideline catch by Ty Jones on the right sideline and followed immediately by a beautiful pass from Browning to Quinten Pounds for a touchdown.

This is still anyone’s game, and this should be a fun finish.

Jarrett Stidham tried recruiting Texas A&M after leaving Baylor, but Aggies weren’t as interested

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Well, this might sting a little for Texas A&M. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham shared his experience in the recruiting process at SEC Media Days in Atlanta, claiming to be the one trying to sell himself more to Texas A&M than Texas A&M tried recruiting him when Stidham opted to leave Baylor.

“Honestly, [former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin], he didn’t recruit me too hard,” Stidham said. “I probably tried to recruit myself to A&M a little harder. Just because it was in-state, it was right down the road from where I was there in Waco.”

Originally a four-star recruit of Baylor in the Class of 2015, Stidham transferred from Baylor in the wake of the sexual assault scandal with the program in the summer of 2016. Five months later, Stidham announced his decision to transfer to Auburn for the 2017 season. This will be Stidham’s second season starting for the Tigers after passing for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.

Why would Texas A&M not go after such a talented quarterback that was showing great interest in playing for them? It may because the urgency in adding a quarterback may not have felt like a pressing need for Texas A&M heading into the 2017 season. The Aggies had freshman Kellen Mond coming in as a five-star recruit in the Class of 2017. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but Mond appeared in 10 games for Texas A&M and completed 51.5 percent of his passes for 1,375 yards and eight touchdowns with six interceptions. He also rushed for 340 yards and three touchdowns for the Aggies.

Texas A&M went 7-6 last season, while Auburn knocked off both Alabama and Georgia in the regular season to advance to the SEC Championship Game. How many fans in College Station are wondering if the fate of the 2017 season would have been changed drastically if Sumlin decided Stidham would be his guy instead of Mond? Would it have made much of a difference for the Aggies (and for that matter, Auburn)?

As Stidham said to the media, it all worked out for him. Sumlin ended up losing his job and is now the head coach at Arizona, while former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher is getting prepared for his season as the new (handsomely paid) head coach of Texas A&M.

If you were wondering, Stidham also completed 20-of-27 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a 42-27 victory over Texas A&M in Kyle Field last November.