In many respects, and it’s true at all levels of football these days given the importance of the quarterback position, Missouri will go as far as Maty Mauk takes them.
So far, he’s taken them to a 3-0 start and is 6-1 overall as the Tigers’ starter, including last season’s four-game run when James Franklin was sidelined with a shoulder injury.
It’s well-documented that Mauk loves the deep ball and loves making plays with his feet, but he must master other aspects of the position to evolve into an elite quarterback. That growth already is evident in some areas, and it’s part of our weekly #MizzouMailbag.
Joe, it was adjustment, but I also think it will be more of a factor in the Missouri offense moving forward. Part of that is because quarterback Maty Mauk will get better at reading defenses and more comfortable settling for the safe throw as he gains experience. He’ll learn to pick and choose his spots to go for the home run. Some of that was evident against Central Florida. He tried to hit a bomb up the left sideline during the first half, but had been baited into testing double coverage and was picked off. He adjusted and managed the game much better in the second half. Offensive coordinator Josh Henson also will tailor the Tigers’ game plan with more short to intermediate routes in mind after last week’s success.
The other factor, of course, is that defenses — like the Knights’ last week — will scheme to take away the deep ball. South Dakota State and Toledo both get roasted by big plays. Those long throws are momentum-changers and field-flippers. They’re also soul-crushing for defenses. I suspect opposing teams will work hard to force Missouri and Mauk to earn any points they’re going to get. It’s harder for offenses to sustain drives, though Missouri has improved in that area significantly through three games. The good news is, Mauk seems fine with engineering those longer drives — whatever it takes to put up points.
He completed only 51.1 percent of his passes as a redshirt freshman, but that number has climbed to 62.3 percent this season. The Tigers probably want to see it even higher, at least 65 percent, and certainly the best defenses on the schedule loom in conference play. Still, there’s plenty to be encouraged about. Mauk has been more accurate on balance. There have been a few drops and a few spectacular catches, including a couple by sophomore tight end Sean Culkin.
One thing is abundantly clear, Mauk is getting more comfortable, Missouri’s staff is better understanding his strengths and playing to them and the passing offense hasn’t even approached its ceiling yet. Mauk leads the SEC and is tied for first in the nation with 12 touchdowns through three games. Dig deeper and you’ll see that Mauk is particularly effective on first down, ranking fourth in the nation with a 262.99 first-down passer rating. He’s 21 of 25 for 297 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions.
Alan, does that mean I can’t choose Joel Embiid, the lion killer? Man, that’s a tough question, because I have no chance to outrun any of Missouri’s wide receivers. There are a few offensive or defensive linemen I might have a chance, fueled by adrenaline, to beat in a sprint. Really, that would be my plan of attack. Try to give the lion an easier target.
Can we have weapons? If that’s the case, I’m going to disagree with the NFL, lump tight end Sean Culkin in the receivers and choose him. He’s a hunter anyway, so I figure Culkin, Smith & Wesson give me a good shot at survival (pun absolutely intended). Gavin Otte seems like a good guy to share a foxhole with, loyal and hard-working. Seniors Darius White and Jimmie Hunt would also be fine choices, but senior Bud Sasser, at 6-feet-2 and 220 pounds, is the biggest of the bunch. Based on mass alone: Bud Sasser, final answer.
Gooch, with Harold Ramis’ passing, I feel like there must be a hat tip to Egon here. I also have a lot of love for Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and his test methodology. Ray (Dan Akroyd), well, Ray’s OK, I guess. But sure, let’s say it’s Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson). I feel like Winston got the short end in the film’s final version. The role was apparently intended for Eddie Murphy, and Hudson’s part was whittled down after Murphy declined the role (huge mistake, right?).
According to the movie’s IMDB page, it was Winston who was supposed to get slimed in one of the movie’s most famous scenes — another casualty of Murphy’s unwillingness to be part of the project. If you’re wondering, yes, I am a god — because you always answer yes when asked — and that is, in fact, a big Twinkie.