Sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk misfired on his first four throws Saturday during Missouri’s second training camp scrimmage, which was moved inside Devine Pavilion to avoid morning rain showers.
On the heels of the Tigers’ offensive struggles during the first scrimmage four days earlier, the slow start got offensive coordinator Josh Henson grumbling.
“I was having to give myself positive self-talk when we started there,” Henson said.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel called the offense erratic on Tuesday. He was a little more forgiving in Saturday’s assessment, but it’s clear that the offense isn’t sharp with two weeks remaining before the Aug. 30 season opener against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium.
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“We’re not as consistent as what you want to be,” Pinkel said. “… We’re making progress, but we’ve got a long way to go in 14 days. It’s not magic here. It’s about working hard. It’s about playing together as a group. It’s about coming out and getting you job done.”
During its first 12 snaps, the Tigers’ first-team offense was victimized by protection breakdowns, dropped passes and overthrows, including an airmailed pass to senior wide receiver Bud Sasser and a missed connection on a 50-yard bomb to senior wide receiver Darius White.
“You can’t come out there and start a game like that,” Henson said. “Right off the bat, we weren’t very sharp, so we’ve certainly got to be better than that.”
Mauk finished eight of 20 overall for 103 yards, well below the impeccable standard he set during spring ball and far worse than a 16-for-24, 191-yard showing Tuesday.
“We’re still getting going,” Mauk said. “Things are going to break down. It’s camp. You’re out here grinding. That’s what it is. We’re going to get our legs under us. … When we have the next scrimmage, we’re going come out and we’re going to start fresh and finish strong.”
At least Missouri got the finishing strong part right Saturday, scoring on five straight red-zone possessions after failing to find the end zone during situational drills earlier in practice.
Junior tailback Russell Hansbrough had a 3-yard touchdown with the first string, while freshman Ish Witter scored on runs of 5 and 7 yards.
Redshirt freshman Eddie Printz tossed a 2-yard touchdown to redshirt freshman tight end Jason Reese, while junior Corbin Berkstresser added a 10-yard scoring strike to junior Wesley Leftwich.
During the two-minute drill, Mauk overcame consecutive incompletions, including an overthrown screen to nobody in particular, to lead a 60-yard touchdown drive, which delivered an 11-9 victory for the offense.
Hansbrough, who finished with nine carries for 59 yards, capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown.
“The defense has done a nice job of finishing throughout camp,” Henson said. “They’ve finished more practices or scrimmages, making plays at the end to beat us. I was happy today that the offense kept fighting, kept persisting and we were able to make the plays at the end to win and finish.”
During the third-team’s two-minute work, freshman Raymond Wingo picked off a Berkstresser pass that was tipped by freshman Thomas Richard and returned it for a touchdown.
Berkstresser came back with a 55-yard bomb to Richard on a blown coverage down the left sideline and found Richard again for a 5-yard touchdown one snap later.
Before the red-zone work and two-minute drills, the scrimmage’s lone touchdown came on a pick-six by sophomore cornerback Aarion Penton, who played off and baited Printz into a throw toward the right flats before driving on the ball and stepping in front of freshman Lawrence Lee.