The Passing Attack Was the Star of the Show for Auburn Football's A-Day Contest

With Jarrett Stidham leading the way, the passing game was impressive in Saturday's A-Day Game.

Jarrett Stidham (above) drops back to pass on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--It wasn’t necessarily a complete aerial circus on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but compared to many of

Auburn's 2016 football games it looked one on Saturday in the Tigers’ annual A-Day contest.

With quarterback Jarrett Stidham leading the way directing the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 2 defense, the Tigers put the football in the air 48 times. Stidham did his part in a very impressive way.

A transfer from Baylor, Stidham completed 16-20 passes for 267 yards and showed nimble feet as a runner. The redshirt sophomore was named the A-Day Offensive MVP as his Blue team cruised to a 37-13 victory.

“It was a blast,” Stidham said. “It has been awhile for me so I had a lot of fun today. A ton of fun. It was good.

“The goal this spring was just to have a base understanding of the base plays that we have, the base offense that we have,” Stidham said. “Throughout the entire spring, each day I wanted to get more comfortable with it. Today, we ran what we thought we were good out throughout the entire spring. I  moved the ball well, and I feel really comfortable with it so far.”

Photography: Wade Rackley

Nate Craig (5) was the leading receiver on Saturday.

It was also a big day for the receivers. Nate Craig caught five passes for 154 yards, Will Hastings finished with seven catches for 75 yards, Marquis McClain caught two passes for 73 yards, including a 69-yarder from walk-on Devin Adams, and Darius Slayton made three catches for 65 yards.

“He has been throwing the ball like that all spring,” said Slayton, a sophomore who is emerging as a deep threat for the Tigers.

Junior end Paul James, who was named the A-Day Defensive MVP, said, “It is just an honor and it shows that hard work pays off.”

Working to recover from knee surgery that sidelined him last year, asked if he is 100 percent yet, James said, “I am about 85 percent.”

Auburn’s head coach noted that he liked what he saw on Saturday and added the Tigers made progress in the spring.

“Really, what stood out to me was our number one defense,” Gus Malzahn said. “When our starters were out there I thought they had an excellent day.

“Our number offense, I?thought, had a very good day, too,” he said. “We got a chance to let everyone play and do their thing.

“Daniel Carlson showed again why he is the best kicker in college football,” Malzahn said of the senior, who was 5-5 on field goals with a 55-yarder that would have been good from much farther out.

With Ian Shannon gone for a funeral, Carlson handled the punting, too, and averaged 43.8 yards on six attempts.

Kerryon Johnson hurt his ankle in the game, but said afterwards it wasn’t serious. He was the leading rusher with seven carries for 47 yards and one touchdown.

Overall, the Tigers were able to avoid major injuries in the spring, the head coach pointed out.

Commenting on Stidham, Malzahn said, “I thought he protected the ball--that’s where it starts, the number one thing. It was good for him to get out there in front of a crowd. He hadn’t been out in front of a crowd playing football in a long time. I think overall it was good for him.

“It looked like the receivers made some plays, too,” he added. “I am talking about the young receivers--they are growing up a little bit.”

The Blue team took a 27-6 lead at halftime and the rest of the game featured the reserves and a running clock. Johnson scored the first touchdown on a four-yard run on what he said was a broken play.

Photography: Inside the Auburn Tigers/AUTigers.com

Braden Smith, a key performer in the offensive line, prepares to sign an autograph after Saturday's game.

Walk-on running back C.J. Tolbert scored the second touchdown on a nine-yard run. He finished with 37 yards on nine carries.

Stidham scored on a one-yard run when he scooped up a fumble and raced around left end for a score.

The Blue’s second half touchdown was on a 15-yard run by Malik Miller and the White’s only touchdown was in the fourth quarter when McClain’s 69-yard pass from Devin Adams.

A-Day Notes: The official crowd estimate was 46,331...There were only three penalties for 20 yards in the contest...Nick Ruffin was the leading tackler with nine solos and two assists. Richard McBryde made six solos and two assists and Daniel Thomas had six solos and one assist...MVP James had four tackles with three coming behind the line of scrimmage....Playing for the Blue team Malik Willis was 8-12 passing for 111 yards. He was 3-6 for 46 yards for the White team...Woody Barett was 2-2 for 14 yards for the White team while Devin Adams was 3-4 for 73 yards.

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