In the last month, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk won three games as Missouri’s starting quarterback while senior captain James Franklin recovered from a sprained shoulder.
Equally important, Mauk won the trust of the Tigers’ coaching staff and the respect of his teammates by guiding No. 8 Missouri to a 3-1 record and keeping the team on track for an SEC East championship.
“He’s a gutsy dude,” senior wide receiver L’Damian Washington said. “He’s back there improvising and making plays. He’s a great guy. You love to play with a guy like that who can create a play out of nothing. I love that about Maty.”
Franklin, who is set to return when the Tigers tussle with No. 24 Mississippi at 6:45 p.m. Saturday in Oxford, Miss., also praised Mauk’s performance during his absence.
“Obviously I’ve hated being out, but I’ve wanted us to win, and Maty’s done a great job making sure that we’ve been winning,” Franklin said.
For now, Mauk, who completed 57 of 114 passes for 910 yards with 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions in those four starts, will return to a backup role.
He knew it was coming. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel had said all along it was Franklin’s job when he was healthy enough to return.
Now that Mauk has a taste for big-time college football, resuming his duties as understudy won’t be easy.
“It will be a little tough, but I know my role on the team and I’m going to go out every day and give my best and be prepared no matter what happens,” Mauk said.
Pinkel also said Mauk, a Kenton, Ohio, native, has earned the right to play as the Tigers prepare for must-win games against the Rebels and Nov. 30 when Texas A comes to town.
“Maty will play,” Pinkel said. “How much we don’t know yet, but he’ll definitely play. Maty’s done a great job.”
Pinkel said the decision on how and when to use Mauk won’t be made until Thursday’s staff meeting, but there isn’t much chance the Tigers’ staff will simply forget to put Mauk in for a series or two.
Against Indiana on Sept. 21, Pinkel said he “forgot” to insert Mauk for a series. The following week against Arkansas State, Mauk had only mop-up duty, kneeling in the victory formation.
That isn’t going to be the case against Mississippi, but the real payoff from Mauk’s four-game stint as the starting quarterback probably won’t be realized until the spring or even next fall.
“Any time a guy gets into a football game, he’s going to use that experience and be xponentially better the next year,” Missouri associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill said. “(Mauk) is going to be able to take these four games and really build confidence from it. Obviously, he’s played very well and it should help him next year.”
Mauk admits that he’s changed as a quarterback. He said he already had matured over the offseason from the redshirt who ran from police in a late-night scooter escapade that resulted in four misdemeanor charges.
Now, with four starts under his belt, Mauk’s maturation process on the field has been accelerated, too.
“The biggest thing is I got the game to slow down,” he said. “When I was thrown in there against Toledo, I came in and got two sacks on me. The game was faster then. And now that I’ve been in there playing a lot, it’s easier to go through reads. Everything’s just slowed way down, and that’s the biggest thing I’ve gained.”
Well, that and the confidence of his teammates.
“Maty could start anywhere else,” sophomore center Evan Boehm said. “I really believe that and I firmly believe in that. We didn’t skip a beat (when Franklin went out), and I don’t think Maty has to prove himself for next year. Maty’s already proved himself to the nation.”Tale of the tape
|James Franklin||Category||Maty Mauk|
|Corinth, Texas||Hometown||Kenton, Ohio|
|132-195 (67.7%)||Passing||62-120 (51.7%)|
|4.5||Yards per carry||4.4|