September blues for Missouri, out of poll and QB suspended
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) It has been a tumultuous month for Missouri, which was 24th a week ago and didn’t get a single Top 25 vote this week.
The two-time defending SEC East champions have faced adversity on and off the field.
Along with several injuries to key players, quarterback Maty Mauk and backup offensive tackle Malik Cuellar were suspended indefinitely this week for an unspecified violation of team policies. Mauk is 17-5 as the starter.
”It’s always difficult to suspend a player,” coach Gary Pinkel said Wednesday. ”When we make those decisions, we don’t look at circumstances, or who the player is, the type of game it is or what have you. We just do what is the right thing to do.”
Freshman quarterback Drew Lock likely will make his first start Saturday when the Tigers (3-1, 0-1 SEC) host South Carolina (2-2, 0-2). Lock is 15 for 25 for one touchdown and an interception.
Before the suspension, wide receiver J’Mon Moore expressed confidence in both quarterbacks.
”You’ve got Maty and you’ve got Drew,” Moore said. ”Whoever coach (Andy) Hill or coach (Josh) Henson wants in at the time is going to get in and make plays.”
The injuries began in the opener when Russell Hansbrough sprained an ankle on his first carry. A 1,000-yard rusher last season, he’s been limited to 13 carries for 49 yards. Missouri has one rushing touchdown and averages 107 rushing yards, both worst in the SEC.
On Sept. 18, four players were involved in a car accident that left wide receiver DeSean Blair with a concussion. Blair has missed the last two games and will not play Saturday. Last week, Missouri lost 21-13 at Kentucky to end an 11-game road winning streak, and also lost two offensive starters.
Tackle Nate Crawford injured his left ankle and is out this week. Tight end Sean Culkin sprained his right knee and is expected to miss at least two weeks. Culkin has the second most receptions on the team with 12 for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Throughout this difficult stretch, Missouri’s offense has struggled to score. The two-time defending SEC East champions have the fewest red zone trips in the league and have scored only two touchdowns in the last nine quarters.
”We’re not scoring enough points,” Pinkel said. ”We understand that. It does get frustrating. We’re going to continue to work hard to score more.”
Wide receiver Nate Brown believes the offense will make strides after another week of practice.
”It’s time to turn it up a notch, which I feel like we’ll do,” said Brown, who has 11 catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns. ”Every person on the offense has to just look in the mirror and say `What can I do better?’ Personally, I can work on getting open more, securing the ball more, little things like that.”
Missouri’s defense has also taken a hit.
Linebacker Kentrell Brothers, who leads the nation in tackles with 52, injured his left ankle against Kentucky and is questionable for Saturday. Pinkel said it may be a game-time call.
”Kentrell wants to play,” Pinkel said. ”That’s just the way he is. He’s just a remarkable competitor. He and the medical staff will make that decision.”