Missouri’s offensive players and coaches are weary of talking about the passing game’s struggles during preseason practice.
During the last two scrimmages, sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk completed 12 of 31 passes for 131 yards, giving rise to concerns about an aerial attack that features a new full-time starting quarterback and new stable of starting receivers.
Consistency and crispness were absent on both occasions, but there’s no panic ahead of Saturday’s season opener, a 2:30 p.m. kickoff against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium.
“I’m not worried about any of that,” said Mauk, who went 3-1 as a starter last season filling in for James Franklin. “It’s a scrimmage and we’re going against our own defense. When we get out there and we’re going against unscripted stuff, it’s going to be different. We’re going to be ready Saturday and we’re going to come out firing.”
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Mauk’s unwavering confidence gives the rest of Tigers confidence, too.
“I’m not worried about it at all,” junior right tackle Connor McGovern said. “I know Maty, on game day, is a whole different animal. He’s a guy who can definitely flip that switch …. He’s a gamer. I’m not worried about his consistency.”
Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson also believes Mauk’s track record speaks for itself.
“I don’t think he’ll get frustrated,” Henson said. “I just base that on the Florida game last year. Really, through that week, the practices were about like the scrimmages. They weren’t super sharp, but then he came out and played pretty well.”
Besides, the Tigers contend that the passing game, while inconsistent during the scrimmages that are open to media and the public, has shown flashes of explosiveness during closed practices.
“The last two practices we had, they were connecting like it was nothing and they’re doing a great job working together,” junior center Evan Boehm said. “I don’t think Maty’s too worried about the passing game.”
Missouri expects to light up the scoreboard against the Jackrabbits.
“It’s going to be totally different when we get out there and go against a whole different team that doesn’t know us and know our tendencies,” senior wide receiver Jimmie Hunt said. “We’ve gone against each other summer, and our defense is probably one of the best we’ll see this whole year.”
Mauk and the receivers worked throughout the summer to build chemistry and it will show, the Tigers insist.
“Once game time comes, I really think all that is going to connect,” senior wide receiver Darius White said. “It’s not like it’s not there.”
A variety of breakdowns — protections, routes or occasional errant passes — plagued Missouri’s offense during camp, but those issues have steadily been ironed out.
“It’s part of camp,” associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. “We want to compete every single pass we throw. If you don’t do that, there’s a reason why, so we’re just trying to go out and rectify those problems and find out why.”
Missouri, which had the No. 13 scoring offense in the nation last season at 39.1 points per game, believes it can put those adjustments into action now that the season has arrived.
“We’re fine and we’re getting better each and every day,” Boehm said. “It’s up to everybody on the offensive side of the ball to give their one-11th. That’s what (offensive-line) coach (A.J.) Ricker is really big on right now is giving your one-11th. If everybody gives their one-11th on that field, we’ll be just fine. We have the playmakers to do special things this year.”