By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - As a competitor, Jarrett Stidham is never satisfied with being second best.
In this case, Stidham's passing performance in Auburn's 24-10 Homecoming win over Mercer ranks him No. 2 in two elite categories.
His 32 completions ranks second in Auburn single-game history to Patrick Nix, who completed 34 passes against Arkansas in 1995.
His 86.5 completion percentage ranks No. 2 in SEC history behind only Tim Tebow's 88.6 percent against Cincinnati in 2009, in a game with 30 or more completions.
"I think we did a lot of good things. I got to get in a rhythm early, getting it out quick. I thought we executed the game plan really well. Everything that we had in, we ran today and executed," said Stidham, who completed 32 of 37 passes for 364 yards. "You want to get in a rhythm as an offense, whether that's running, throwing, whatever it is. If you can get that first first down, and then really start picking up the pace, I think it's beneficial for us."
Completing a school-record 18 consecutive passes from the middle of the first quarter until early in the third, Stidham delivered Auburn's first 300-yard passing game since Nick Marshall threw for 456 in the 2014 Iron Bowl.
"I thought I saw the field really well today," Stidham said. "Sometimes when it's third-and-10, they're dropping eight, you just have to find a window and you go all the way through the progression. I tried to stay in the pocket as long as I could tonight and just make the throws. Our offensive line did a great job protecting."
"We were able to spread it out pretty well today, and I thought a lot of the guys got a lot of different touches," Stidham said. "I know I was thrilled with it, and I know they were, too."
Stidham was sacked only once, building on one of his takeaways from Auburn's previous game against Clemson and its formidable pass rush.
"Any time you get a challenge like that, an opportunity like that, I try to take full advantage of it, try to soak it all in because at the end of the day, they're national champions from last year, so it was a great experience," Stidham said. "Obviously, I learned a lot of things from last week. We're just going to go forward the rest of the season, try to build off this win."
Auburn won despite committing five turnovers -- four fumbles and an interception - something Stidham and the offense will seek to correct in practice.
"When you're executing the game plan and moving the ball down the field, it's a lot of fun," he said. "And then turnovers kind of put a damper on things. It's just part of football and that's something that we can control. We've just got to hold on to the ball better. I don't need to throw interceptions. There are a lot of things we have to clean up, but it's all stuff that we can control, so that's the real positive of it."
Stidham tried to encourage his teammates after the miscues.
"I told them, `Next play.' You've got to shake that off and you've got to move on," he said. "That's just how it is. You can't dwell on the past, you just have to stay positive and that's what I try to preach to those guys."
Auburn begins Southeastern Conference play Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Missouri on ESPNU.
"We're excited," Stidham said. "We're about to go on a long run with all of the SEC teams. It's going to be a challenge each week. Our defense, they're playing lights out. Hats off to them, they're truly a great defense. I know offensively we just want to help a little bit more [by eliminating turnovers]. I know offensively, defensively, special teams, we're really excited for this stretch that we're about to get into."
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) September 17, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer