It’s unfamiliar territory for Missouri sophomore quarterback Maty Mauk.
During a dismal performance Saturday in a 34-0 loss against Georgia, social media lit up with calls for coach Gary Pinkel to bench Mauk.
The first question Pinkel heard after the game was about if he considered pulling Mauk, who inherited the Tigers’ starting the job after going 3-1 last season when James Franklin was injured.
“Mental toughness is really how you get through these things,” Pinkel said. “You battle through it. He’s not used to having people wanting another quarterback to come in. I don’t think that’s ever happened in his life, but he’s got my support and the team’s support.”
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Pinkel said he never considered yanking Mauk from the game.
“Not at all,” Pinkel said. “He’s our guy.”
Mauk appreciated the support but also said he was never concerned about his status as Missouri’s starters.
“That’s why the coaches are on the sidelines and that’s why they’re up in the stands,” Mauk said. “I’m pretty sure coach Pinkel knows what he’s doing and I don’t think it crossed his mind.”
Not that Mauk is completely immune from the criticism.
“Obviously, I see Twitter,” Mauk said. “You go and you click and you see who says stuff, but it really doesn’t matter. I just look at who the people are, but it has no effect on me.”
Mauk also vowed to correct the issues that have resulted in back-to-back grisly performances.
Three weeks into the season, Mauk was among the nation’s leader in passing touchdowns.
He’s a combined 21 of 55 — an icy 38.2 percent — for 229 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions against South Carolina and Georgia during the last two weeks.
Mauk committed five turnovers, including a fumble, in the shutout loss to the Bulldogs.
“I’ve never been shutout my whole life,” Mauk said. “That’s the frustrating part, but that’s going to drive everyone in that locker room to go twice as hard as they did this last week and really get better.”
Fixing the problems in Missouri’s passing game might be easier said than done, because it’s not one simple thing that needs to be fixed.
“It’s everywhere,” senior wide receiver Bud Sasser said. “Receivers will have a drop when we finally can get the ball downfield or we’ve got a misread up front. Maty might be getting out of the pocket a little early. It’s everywhere. The thing is we’re trying to make sure we’re all on the same page and we’re all believing in each other and understanding that the guy next to you has his job down.”
Offensive coordinator Josh Henson said he’ll consider paring down the playbook to focus on Missouri’s strengths and might utilize more designed rollouts to help shore up protections issues, but don’t expect wholesale changes.
“The answers are not to abandon everything,” Henson said. “The answers are to get better at the things we need to get better at. You watch the film, there’s opportunities for us there to make plays. There’s a lot of opportunities. We just didn’t make them Saturday.”
Don’t expect the Tigers to turn their back on Mauk either.
“My biggest thing is for him to believe in himself, because he’s done it before,” Pinkel said. “We’ve seen him do it on big stages, so he’ll look back on this as an experience that really helped him. Right now, he’s not thinking that way.”