Mauk promises Tigers will bounce back from first loss
Maty Mauk's first two starts have been up and down, but he promises more ups than downs
By NATE LATSCH FS Midwest
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The college football season can be a roller-coaster ride from week to week, as Mizzou fans have learned. Quarterback Maty Mauk's first two starts for the
Tigers certainly qualify as a thrill ride.
The redshirt freshman, pressed into duty because of James Franklin's shoulder injury, accounted for 310 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Florida in his first start two weeks ago. But he struggled at times in Mizzou's 27-24, double-overtime loss to South Carolina on Saturday night.
"I thought he did a lot of good things," Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. "He is a young guy. It is his second time starting a (college) football game in his life. I think he did some really, really good things, and (there are) a lot of little things he needs to do to get better. Overall, he battled and we will improve and I think he will be a really good player."
Mauk arrived in Columbia with a suitcase full of accolades and expectations following a record-setting career at Kenton (Ohio) High School, where he led his team to a 42-8 record over four seasons and broke national records for career passing yards (18,932), touchdown passes (219), pass completions (1,353) and total offense (22,681).
Though he couldn't beat out Franklin for the starting job in the preseason -- which wasn't likely considering Franklin was a two-year starter -- the former Mr. Football Award winner has given Mizzou fans plenty of reason to be excited about the future of the program in his first two starts.
His diverse skill set was on display on the Tigers' third series against the Gamecocks on Saturday night.
After nearly being intercepted on the first play, Mauk stepped up in the pocket and delivered a strike to the chest of Marcus Lucas downfield that the wide receiver turned into a 32-yard gain.
Then, on first down at Carolina's 45, Mauk spun out to his left, scrambled and went shoulder-first into an oncoming defender for a 4-yard gain.
On second-and-6 from the 41, he scrambled out of the pocket to his left and then pitched the ball forward, shovel-pass style, to Bud Sasser for a 14-yard gain along the sideline.
"Oh, he's a gamer, this Maty Mauk," Joe Tessitore said on the ESPN2 broadcast.
Added Matt Millen: "Maty Favre, that's what I like to call him."
Then on first down at the 27, Mauk threw a pass out of the end zone in the direction of Sasser. Marcus Murphy followed with a run for no gain.
Three plays later, Mauk converted a third-and-10 when he found Sasser along the left sideline for a 12-yard completion.
Running back Marcus Murphy finished the drive with two runs, the latter an 11-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 1:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Mauk put Mizzou ahead 14-0 when he connected with L'Damian Washington for a 96-yard touchdown pass with 4:16 left in the first half.
The redshirt freshman finished the first half 6-of-13 passing for 175 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
The second half, however, was a struggle. He completed just 4 of 11 passes for 74 yards as the offense stalled.
Six second-half series produced just three points. The Tigers converted just one of six opportunities on third down, which opened the door for South Carolina to rally from its 17-point deficit.
"I will have to watch film and see what happened," Mauk said Saturday.
Mauk led Mizzou to a touchdown on its first series in overtime but was unable to get the Tigers in the end zone in the second overtime, which ended with a missed field goal.
The loss hurt deeply, no doubt. But Mauk showed his maturity and leadership when he said all the right things late Saturday night following the Tigers' first loss ("This gives us something to be hungry for") and again Monday afternoon when Pinkel and his players met with the media.
"The main thing is to stay focused," Mauk said. "Don't look at what people are going to say. I know we have something special going on right now, and we are going to bounce back from it. We're going to be as good as we have ever been this week."
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @natelatsch or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.