The wind picked up and the sky turned gray Tuesday over Memorial Stadium as Missouri’s second scrimmage, which was split in half due to depth issues Saturday, drew to a close.
Junior quarterback Maty Mauk spotted single coverage on sophomore wide receiver J’Mon Moore outside and took a shot, unleashing a 50-yard bomb down the middle of the field.
Draped by senior cornerback David Johnson, Moore juggled the ball momentarily before pulling it into his belly as he dove across the goal line.
The horn sounded, signaling the end of the scrimmage, and suddenly the outlook for a struggling No. 1 offense seemed a bit sunnier despite the overcast conditions.
MU’s defense, which led 8-4 after the first half of the scrimmage Saturday, still won 32-6 based on the modified scrimmage scoring system, but there were undeniable positives for the beleaguered offense.
“There was a lot of good things that happened in this scrimmage,” senior center Evan Boehm said. “I saw a lot of things that the offense needs to work, but the attitude and the enthusiasm and everything that went on today was a step forward for the offense.”
The Tigers’ offense — first, second and third string — had managed only one touchdown through the first 1 1/2 scrimmages.
Mauk tossed two touchdowns on Tuesday, a 12-yard pass to senior Wesley Leftwich and the 50-yard lob to Moore, as Missouri’s offense seized a measure of momentum with just one practice remaining before the annual Black & Gold Game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Those were the first two passing touchdowns of the spring. MU’s only other score came on a 65-yard Russell Hansbrough run in the April 4 scrimmage.
Mauk finished 11 of 21 for 138 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, a vast improvement from Saturday when he was two of nine for nine yards.
Backup quarterback Eddie Printz went 12 of 27 for 93 yards with an interception, but he finished with a flourish, completing seven of nine passes for 52 yards in a two-minute drill against the No. 1 defense.
“There’s not much continuity there, and that’s (important for) offensive football,” Pinkel said. “We’ve got a long way to go there. We really do, but I think we’ve got the talent enough. We’ve got to coach well, and we got a challenge there.”
The defense had its share of highlights again, too.
Junior cornerback Aarion Penton undercut a deep out by redshirt freshman DeSean Blair and picked off Printz, while Johnson ended Mauk and the No. 1 offense’s first two-minute drive by picking off a pass that went in and out of sophomore tight end Jason Reese’s hands.
Senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers again led the defense with four tackles, while sophomore Charles Harris had a sack and two tackles for a loss.
Junior Harold Brantley also had a sack and 1 1/2 tackles for a loss, while walk-on Jeffrey Cathey added a sack and seniors Clarence Green and Ian Simon recorded a tackle for a loss.
While not happy to give up those touchdowns, the defense was happy to see the offense’s incremental improvement.
“No doubt, the offense has made strides across the board,” Simon said. “The O-line has gotten better, because the D-line is so dominant. They’re an aggressive D-line, so it forced the O-line to get better. The secondary has so much experience and we’re so fast, it’s forcing the receivers to get better in a hurry or get embarrassed every day.”
Moore finished with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown, while Blair added four catches for 35 yards.
Frustration boiled over late in the scrimmage between senior offensive lineman Brad McNulty and Harris, who continued a dustup well after the whistle.
“It’s good to see that passion, but, at the same time, we’ve got to remember that we’re in a scrimmage and we’re on the same team,” Boehm said. “We can’t have stuff like that happen.”