Less than a week after being reinstated from a monthlong suspension, Missouri junior quarterback Maty Mauk was suspended for the season Sunday by coach Gary Pinkel.
Pinkel’s decision, citing disciplinary reasons, was announced in a release from the MU athletic department.
Mauk was suspended Sept. 29 for an undisclosed violation of team rules. He returned to practice on Tuesday and apologized for the conduct that led to his initial suspension Wednesday during a team meeting.
Mauk told the team he was “going to get his act together and be the leader he’s supposed to be and we all know he can be,” sophomore wide receiver J’Mon Moore said.
It’s unclear what, if anything, transpired during the last four days, but Mauk will not suit up for the Tigers again this season.
“All my players trust me that I don’t ever talk about disciplinary issues since the day I got here …,” Pinkel said. “I know you want more information, but that’s why I don’t do it. I’ve been very consistent.”
Pinkel understands the rumor mill is in overdrive regarding Mauk’s suspension, but that doesn’t sway his decision.
“I care about my players,” he said. “They’re like your kids, okay? If you’ve got three kids, you’re going to go out and have a little meeting in your front yard and you’re going to tell them all the stuff that your kids did wrong? You protect your kids. They’re your family. We do the same thing here. We protect our family.”
It’s possible Mauk never may play again for the Tigers, 4-4 overall and 1-4 in the SEC, who host Mississippi State at 8 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Stadium.
“At the end of the season, we’ll look at it,” Pinkel said.
Missouri’s players said Mauk was welcomed back last week without fuss.
“Players are always received with open arms here,” sophomore wide receiver Nate Brown said. “Everybody on the team, whether they’re suspended or whatever the case may be, they’re still part of our family and we still treat them that way whether or not they’re on the field.”
The Tigers were 3-1 at the time of Mauk’s first suspension, including narrow wins against Arkansas State and Connecticut and a loss at Kentucky.
Mauk had completed 57 of 110 passes (51.8 percent) for 654 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.
Freshman quarterback Drew Lock helped lead Missouri to a win against South Carolina in his first start, but the Tigers’ offense has totaled 12 points in the last three games — losses against Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt.
It would be natural if Lock, who has completed 62 of 127 passes (48.8 percent) for 538 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions during the last four games, peeked over his shoulder.
After all, Mauk went 17-5 during the last three seasons as a starter.
“Just being a competitor and having somebody as good as Maty right behind you on your neck, it’s a feeling knowing you could have somebody come back instantly off suspension,” Moore said. “I’m pretty sure he thought about that in the back of his mind.”
Mauk and Lock, who started all four games with Mauk suspended, split reps during Tuesday’s practice, but there’s no doubt whose team it is now.
“I feel bad,” senior wide receiver Wesley Leftwich said of Mauk. “He’s been going through a lot with his dad and his life and everything. We’re not really 100 percent sure why he’s suspended. We’ll know later in our team meeting, but I hope the best for the kid, because he’s a good guy. He’s just made some mistakes here and there, but we’ve got to keep moving on. Drew’s our guy from here on out.”
Moore admitted Mauk’s status was a distraction, but the entire team worked hard to minimize it.
“We worry about the task we have at hand,” senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers said. “We’re trying to go to a bowl game right now and, if we’re going to let stuff like that distract us, nothing against Maty, but we’ve got more important things to worry about right now.”
Lock said he had expected to and was preparing to start against Mississippi State despite Mauk’s return last week. Pinkel refused to articulate his plan before Mauk’s second suspension.
For Missouri, it’s time to move on.
“Nothing but the best for Maty,” senior safety and captain Ian Simon said. “My prayers go out to him. I love him and he’s a great person, but he needs help. Right now, for the rest of us, we can just focus on Mississippi State.”