Missouri’s second scrimmage of fall camp was winding down Thursday at Memorial Stadium and the offense, which has been battered for much of the last two weeks, could feel the tide turning.
Quarterback Maty Mauk had engineered a seven-play, 65-yard drive during the two-minute drill that knotted the scrimmage based on the modified scoring system when sophomore Ish Witter scampered in for a 2-yard touchdown, his second on the day.
Now, the third-string squads were battling it out and freshman Drew Lock had the offense poised for another score when senior center Evan Boehm walked to midfield behind the play, motioned toward the defensive sideline and cupped his right ear with his right hand.
Boehm beamed as his gently taunted Missouri’s defense.
That kind of swagger hasn’t always been apparent for the Tigers’ offense, which struggled to establish any rhythm during spring practice and got beat decisively in the first scrimmage last Saturday.
It was readily apparent by the end of Thursday’s scrimmage.
“When we’re playing at a fast tempo, getting guys in space and not letting the defense do all their adjustments and get in their blitzes, that’s when we’re at our best,” said Mauk, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 134 yards with a touchdown. “That’s how all our guys, we recruited them from offenses that are similar, so that’s how they like to play.”
Lock — a true freshman from Lee’s Summit who sparkled again, going 15 of 20 for a team-high 168 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions — rifled a 14-yard touchdown to walk-on Oke Akushe one play after Boehm’s antics.
The scrimmage result hung in the balance as backup quarterback Eddie Printz led the No. 2 offense onto the field for its two-minute drill against the No. 1 offense.
The final result was the same as the other two “game-winning” drives.
Printz opened the series with a 52-yard bomb to freshman Emanuel Hall then delivered an 11-9 win for the offense by drilling a 13-yard touchdown to redshirt freshman Thomas Richard, who was mobbed by the white-clad offense in the northeast corner of the end zone.
“They’ve had our number … so it meant a lot,” said sophomore Nate Brown, who caught a 10-yard touchdown from Mauk on Thursday. “It’s a constant battle (with the defense), but … we’ve got a lot of momentum going into the next practice and we’re just trying to build on it.”
Missouri’s quarterbacks were dynamite again, going 43 of 67 for 527 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions for the second straight scrimmage.
“Today was probably our best day of camp so far …,” Mauk said. “Guys just came out today and were in the right spots, they were running the right routes, they were catching the ball, the offensive line was protecting and we were making throws. That’s what you’ve got to do as an offense and, if you do that, there’s nobody that can stop you. We’ve got to come out tomorrow morning with the same fire and get better.”
The offense generated eight touchdowns, including a 10-yard strike from Lock to Ray Wingo during second-team reps against the first-team defense.
During red-zone work, Witter notched his first touchdown on a 1-yard run against the second-team defense and freshman Marquise Doherty scored on a 2-yard run against the third-team.
Even senior Corbin Berkstresser got in on the offensive explosion, connecting with junior Jake Brents on a 55-yard touchdown catch and run. Brents bounced off two tackles inside the 10-yard line before diving into the end zone.
“They’ve gone through some adversity,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “The first three practices, if they win the last play, they win it. It’s just very competitive. It’s great. The coaches are competitive, the players are competitive.”
Even the first-team defense — which allowed two touchdowns, Lock-to-Wingo and Printz-to-Richard, along with a 41-yard Luke Jackson field goal in red-zone work — was impressed with the offense’s performance.
“We don’t want to lose and they don’t want to lose,” Simon said. “But honestly, to see that out of the offense, that was the first they really got it going as a team and put things together and made things happen. That was good to see from a young offense like that, so I was really happy for those guys.”
Linebacker Grant Jones tackled Ryan Williams for a safety during third-team work at the offensive goal line.