Jarrett Stidham’s 373 passing yards and an Auburn bowl record five touchdown passes against Purdue in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl was a nice farewell letter to Gus Malzahn and the Tiger program.
As starter the last two seasons, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback has built a reputation as an efficient passer, but struggled at times in 2018, in part because he got little help from an inexperienced offensive line. Still, Stidham’s final dominating performance should have reminded fans how talented the Kentucky native could be when the offense was rolling.
So how will Stidham be remembered among the many legendary quarterbacks of Auburn’s past?
The quarterback position at Auburn comes with plenty of pressure. Statues of Heisman-winning quarterbacks Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton remind those who enter Jordan-Hare Stadium of the astronomical standards those players set. Newton only played at Auburn for one season in 2010, but completed 185 of 280 passes for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions. Sullivan’s resume covers the three years from 1969-1971 in which he completed 472 of 863 for 6,534 yards and 54 touchdowns and threw 41 interceptions.
Another recent Auburn great, Nick Marshall, played from 2013-2014 and completed 320 of 532 for 4,508 yards and 34 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. And who could forget the great Jason Campbell, who started as a freshman in 2001 and finished his senior season with a perfect 14-0 record in 2004? For his career, Campbell completed 552 of 854 for 7,299 yards and 45 touchdowns with 24 interceptions.
Stidham’s passing stats for the past two years are up to par or better than most of his predecessors as he completed 455 of 718 passes for 5,579 yards and 31 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. Stidham’s arm was his most dangerous weapon, while some other recent AU greats were just as dynamic on their feet. Newton rushed for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns in his national championship season, and Marshall ran for 1,866 yards and 23 touchdowns during his two years. Stidham wasn’t one to scramble much, rushing for 148 yards and 7 touchdowns over two seasons.
Quarterbacks like Stidham and Campbell tear up defenses by sitting in the pocket behind a strong offensive line and hitting targets downfield. Unfortunately, his shaky offensive line made life difficult for Stidham this season. Plus, Malzahn’s offensive style is known to work better with scrambling quarterbacks, so Stidham just wasn’t able to showcase his talents as much as he might have wanted to.
Despite the adversity, Stidham still put up some impressive numbers and will go down as a winning QB, especially after posting victories over Auburn’s two biggest rivals, Alabama and Georgia, and taking the Tigers to a Southeastern Conference Championship game in 2017.
Stidham should be the next Tiger QB in line to get a shot at the NFL, and deserves to be remembered as an Auburn great. H&A