COLUMBIA Maybe it’s the hair and Drew Lock’s easy smile, but he’d made this college football thing look pretty easy during the first five games of his career.
Lock, a true freshman quarterback at Missouri, sparkled in his debut as a backup against Southeast Missouri and showed enough in a limited role during the next three appearances that many fans were calling for him to replace starter Maty Mauk with the offense struggling.
When Lock got the starting nod against South Carolina in the wake of Mauk’s suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules, he completed 16 of 19 passes for 108 yards with two perfectly thrown touchdowns in a 24-10 win.
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“Nothing in college football is pretty easy,” Lock said after a 21-3 loss in his second start against Florida last weekend at Memorial Stadium. “It’s all real stressful.”
Lock — a 6-foot-4 dead-eyed gunslinger from Lee’s Summit with tousled hair and a confident countenance — was Gator bait on Saturday, getting sacked three times, hurried five more and knocked down 12 times.
He completed 16 of 39 passes for 151 yards, which was a career high, with no touchdowns and two interceptions, also a career high.
“This is the first time he ever got hit like he got hit,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “He got hit a few times. I mean, he got whacked pretty good, so welcome to SEC football, the highest level. With that being said, great learning experience for him, a young player with great potential. He’ll grow from it and learn, and he’ll play better this week.”
Adversity is a cruel teacher, but sometimes it’s a more effective one than success.
Lock, who will start a third straight game Saturday at Georgia with Mauk still suspended, handled it well. He maintained a calm and collected presence in the huddle and insists that the Florida game didn’t shake his confidence.
“Adversity does teach us a lot, and I’m glad that it happened to me on my second career college start,” he said. “I expected more out of myself, and I hope everyone else expected a little more out of me and holds me to a higher standard than what the offense produced on Saturday. It was obviously a little disappointing, but it’s adversity, and we’re learning from it.”
There’s a learning curve for any player coming from high school to college. It’s perhaps steepest for the quarterback position.
“I thought he did a lot of good things, no question about it,” Pinkel said. “He’s had some growing pains; that’s part of it.”
Lock overthrew tight end Jason Reese on a deep corner, which Florida safety Marcus Maye picked off with a diving grab near the sideline.
Later, Lock threw a pick-six when he tried to force a ball to Reese on an out route and Gators cornerback Jalen Tabor jumped the coverage.
“It’s something that happens and you’re going to see it,” Pinkel said. “Otherwise, (he) did a lot of good things. Certainly, we’ve got to protect for him a little bit better.”
Missouri also never established a running game against the Gators, which was partially a product of digging an early 14-3 hole.
Florida’s early lead also allowed the defense to be aggressive and go after Lock.
“Personnelwise and schemewise, they run a very good scheme — a lot of complex stuff out there for a guy that was playing high school football last year,” Pinkel said.
More adversity is bound to come, perhaps even against Georgia at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
The Tigers just hope it also leads to more growth.
“You always learn more from adversity, but I’d rather win all of my games,” Pinkel said. “But there’s no question … that’s how you grow the most. Hopefully, you make lessons and you learn and you don’t make the same mistakes, so that’s what we really want for him.”