AUBURN, Ala. — Telltale signs that it was a good day for Jarrett Stidham: The Auburn quarterback only had to do pushups atoning for two errant throws, and a tailback's fumble near the goal line bounced into his arms for a touchdown.
The one-time Baylor starter supplied fans at Saturday's spring game with hope that a passing game that's frequently sputtered the past few seasons is due for some improvement, deep balls and all. Stidham, who arrived in January after sitting out last season at a Texas junior college, made a good impression after three months of hype.
Playing only in the first half, Stidham completed 16 of 20 passes for 267 yards in leading the first-team offense. He also scored on that 1-yard run after collecting the fumble — which he called "offense by accident" — and had four completions topping 30 yards.
"It was a blast," Stidham said. "It's been a while for me, so I had a lot of fun. A ton of fun."
At halftime, he lived up to his practice habit of doing 10 pushups for each misfire. This time he missed Jason Smith in the end zone on a run-pass option and a screen pass.
Twenty pushups wasn't so bad while running a new offense in front of 46,331 fans for first-year offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. He led five scores in six drives in the first-teamers' Blue team to a 37-13 win over the White team and the other one ended with a fumble after a 20-yard completion to Will Hastings.
"I thought he managed the offense well," coach Gus Malzahn said. "I thought that he protected the football; that's really where it starts. 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."
The strong performance didn't settle the quarterback competition, which will carry over to preseason camp.
Returning starter Sean White sat out the spring game while recovering from surgery to repair a broken right forearm sustained in the Sugar Bowl. White has put on about 20 pounds, up to 210, from last season but had to watch his challenger from the sideline Saturday.
"At the end of the day, he plays for Auburn just like me," White said. "So when he makes a good pass, I get excited. How could you not? He plays for your team. That's how I look at it."
Teammates say Stidham has fit in well since his arrival. Lindsey praised the 6-foot-2, 210-pound sophomore for his frequent visits to the football building to study film on his own time.
"That's the characteristic of a really good quarterback," the offensive coordinator said this week.
Lindsey said Stidham's demeanor came as a pleasant surprise. He said the transfer often moves up and down the line during stretching high-fiving and encouraging teammates.
"He's a little bit fiery. More fiery than I really thought he would be," Lindsey said.
Spring games aren't necessarily predictors of a quarterback's regular-season success, of course. Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton was just 3-of-8 passing for 80 yards in the 2010 A-Day game.
NOTES: The team holds a final practice on Tuesday. ... Leading rusher Kamryn Pettway was held out of the game, but Malzahn said he's healthy. Backup tailback Kerryon Johnson ran for 47 yards and a touchdown before leaving with a sprained ankle in the second quarter. ... Nate Craig-Myers gained 154 yards on five catches. ... Defensive end Paul James III was the defensive MVP with three tackles for loss. Daniel Carlson was named special teams MVP after kicking field goals of 42, 28, 55, 37 and 39 yards. ... January enrollee Malik Willis had the best day among the other quarterbacks. He was 11 of 18 for 157 yards and also flashed some running ability while playing for both teams.