University of Missouri

MU’s Maty Mauk sees room for improvement even after successful first start

Updated: 2013-10-23T05:55:59Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

— Memorial Stadium was still buzzing after Missouri finished off a 36-17 victory Saturday against No. 22 Florida.

The Tigers, 7-0, who debuted fifth in the Bowl Championship Series standings after dismantling the Gators, were without starting quarterback James Franklin, but redshirt freshman Maty Mauk scarcely missed a beat in his first college start.

When the clock finally read all zeroes, Mauk found associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill and gave him a big hug.

Next, came another big hug from Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.

“Great game — proud of you,” Pinkel recalled telling Mauk, who smiled and thanked him.

Pinkel then added, “But it doesn’t surprise me.”

With that, Mauk, who completed 18 of 36 passes for 295 yards with a touchdown and an interception, flashed an even bigger smile and headed for the locker room.

Mauk probably will have better days, at least statistically, before his Missouri career wraps up. He might even post better numbers against No. 21 South Carolina at 6 p.m. Saturday in Memorial Stadium.

But he might not play a more impressive game. He’d thrown six passes in his college career before lining up against one of the best defenses in the country.

The Tigers’ unblemished record and Southeastern Conference title dreams hung in the balance as Mauk took the field in front of a crowd roughly seven times larger than the number assembled for his last start — in the 2011 Ohio High School Athletic Association Division IV state final.

“I don’t know if I’ve been in an environment with a first game (for a quarterback) like that,” Pinkel said, “to be thrown into that type of an environment with the schedule, the impact of the game and all the things that were tied with that game.”

Mauk rose to the occasion, but that doesn’t mean he was satisfied with his performance.

“The main thing we’ve got to do is work on finishing again,” said Mauk, who lamented settling for five field goals and singled out an overthrow on a screen to senior L’Damian Washington.

“L’Damian would have walked into the end zone,” Mauk said.

Mauk’s day was far from perfect — Florida missed several chances for interceptions — but Mauk, who added a fourth-quarter touchdown run that iced the victory, never seemed overwhelmed by the moment.

Beating a ranked opponent and helping Missouri grab a commanding lead in the SEC East wasn’t a bad way to kick off a college career, even if “there’s a lot of little things he can do to become a better football player” as Pinkel said.

“He was able to make plays,” Hill said. “That’s not the surprising thing, but it’s an exciting thing. He was able to handle what we want him to do.”

Mauk’s teammates weren’t surprised either, and seemed to bristle at the notion that his performance as the Tigers’ backup quarterback was a revelation.

“Backup quarterback?” sophomore center Evan Boehm said, rolling his eyes. “Maty would be starting anywhere else. You guys saw Maty. He doesn’t perform like he’s a backup. Maty was calm, cool and collected during that game.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/todpalmer.

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