COLUMBIA — After a scrimmage in which his quarterbacks teamed up to complete 64.9 percent of their passes for 560 yards and nine touchdowns Thursday, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was still obsessing about details.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
After all, the offense — amazingly, astoundingly — still lost the Tigers’ second scrimmage of the preseason 14-10 to the defense.
“I still think we’re dropping too many balls or missing a guy open here or there,” Pinkel said. “I’m looking for perfect. That’s the bar.”
Pinkel knows the quarterback will play a large role in deciding how close the Tigers get to that bar. And though it’s still being called a competition, senior James Franklin seems firmly entrenched as the starter. As he did in Missouri’s first scrimmage Saturday, Franklin received the majority of work with the first-team offense, completing 16 of 21 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Most important, Franklin committed only one turnover, something his top competition for the job, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, can’t say. Though Mauk had fewer bad throws than he did in the first scrimmage and again showed a knack for escaping trouble — scrambling twice for 15 yards — he completed only 12 of 22 passes for 150 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
When asked Thursday, Franklin and Mauk both said they do not know when Pinkel will choose a starter.
“The only time I think about the quarterback competition is when you guys ask me,” Franklin said. “Other than that, I don’t really think about it at all. Keeping it in the back of my mind, not worrying about it, just going out and playing the best I can has helped.”
After two scrimmages, Franklin has completed 27 of 40 passes (67.5 percent) for 363 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. Meanwhile, Mauk has completed only 23 of 44 passes (52.3 percent) for 371 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, but sees himself making progress.
“Last week I came out slow, but today I came out faster — I wasn’t thinking about anything,” Mauk said. “The main goal was to get the tempo going and get our guys the ball as quick as I could.”
That appeared to be the goal for all of Missouri’s quarterbacks, and Pinkel said the group did some good things as a whole. Sophomore Corbin Berkstresser and true freshman Eddie Printz each threw two touchdowns and true freshman Trent Hosick threw one, but Pinkel added that the 10 sacks were unacceptable.
“We’re not throwing into coverage a lot, I think that’s good,” Pinkel said. “I still think there was a sack or two out there where the quarterback has to get rid of the ball. An incomplete pass is sometimes as good as a complete pass if you earn a 7-yard loss … just a lot of little things like that.”
It should also be noted that the secondary was a little thinner than normal without its top player, senior cornerback E.J. Gaines, who didn’t dress because of a strained patella tendon in his left knee. In his place, senior Randy Ponder and redshirt freshman John Gibson got the majority of the snaps with the first-team defense. Junior Xavier Smith and sophomores Ernest Payton and David Johnson also saw reps.
“We’re mixing and matching a lot of different people,” Pinkel said. “Anytime you lose one of your best players, people have got to step up. We learned that last year, didn’t we?”
Though Payton and safety Ian Simon — who got the nod at first-team safety opposite junior Braylon Webb — each had interceptions, it’s hard to say the group had a good day when MU’s quarterbacks and receivers routinely hooked up for big plays and yards after the catch.
For instance, one of Franklin’s touchdown throws came on a short pass to the right flat to senior L’Damian Washington, who ran through an arm tackle by Gibson and outraced everybody for a 53-yard touchdown.
“They were in zone and James Franklin just made the easy checkdown,” Washington said. “That’s one of the things that’s going to make our offense great this year. If we can make the easy throws and make guys miss, that’s going to make us more effective than we were last year.”