During the fourth quarter of a 9-6 win Sept. 19 against Connecticut, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel sent true freshman quarterback Drew Lock into the game in an effort to jump start a struggling offense.
Lock didn’t get a similar chance Saturday in the second half against Kentucky at Commonwealth Stadium, where the Tigers tumbled 21-13 in the season’s first SEC game.
“It’s the same plan we ever had,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said after the game. “We made the same decisions we make. Same thing.”
Apparently, that means it was a gut feeling not to go back to Lock, who led the Tigers from the shadow of their own goal line into Wildcats territory on a seven-play, 43-yard, second-quarter drive.
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Lock, a Lee’s Summit graduate and the reigning Simone Award winner, led Missouri from its own 10-yard line to Kentucky’s 32-yard line before getting dropped for a 15-yard loss on third-and-10.
Holding the ball too long and taking the occasional sack really has been Lock’s only major blemish during fall-camp scrimmages and his limited appearances in the season’s first four games.
Perhaps that sack convinced the Tigers’ coaches not to give him another crack at the Cats’ D much like a tipped interception on his only play at Arkansas State was used to justify him not appearing in the second half of that game.
Lock knows getting sacked there was a mistake.
“That was the worst-case scenario we could have had on that drive, but we can’t do anything about it now,” he said. “We were definitely moving the ball and I was happy with the way we moved it.”
He also knows exactly what he did wrong.
“I started on my left — went to the flat, went to the corner,” Lock said. “I was waiting for the corner to come out of its break then right as I came off of the corner, I saw that guy right in my face. I could have maybe thrown it out of bounds, but it’s the heat of the moment. I didn’t, and I held on to the ball.”
Tackle C.J. Johnson and linebacker Josh Forrest were credited with the sack.
Two plays earlier, Lock nearly connected on a 32-yard touchdown with freshman wide receiver Emanuel Hall — and stoked the fires of the Tigers’ fan-fueled quarterback controversy to inferno levels — but the pass was underthrown.
“I felt like someone was in front of me, so I took a step back, threw it and it just came off my hand wrong,” said Lock, who admitted to replaying that missed opportunity over and again in his head. “He’s wide open, man. Maybe my hand started shaking a little bit, because I started to get happy already.”
Lock finished three of five for 47 yards and also had an 11-yard scramble, but, for his part, he’s is trying to throw cold water on the notion of a quarterback controversy.
Asked if he was surprised not to play in the second half, Lock said, “No, not at all. We’re going to go with the veteran guy there. He’s pulled us out of those situations before and we have full confidence in him. They’re going to go with the (No.) 1 (quarterback), and that’s fine. That’s how it should be.”
That mirrors public comments from other Tigers.
“Drew’s a good player,” senior running back Tyler Hunt said. “He’s going to be good in the future. But our man’s Maty right now, so we’re sticking with him.”
Still, Lock wouldn’t mind if he got a few more opportunities or if he was able to lead consecutive drives and attempt to establish some rhythm.
Playing one series sporadically isn’t ideal for getting into a flow on the field.
“That would be kind of the same thing at any position,” Lock said. “It is kind of tough. But, at the same time, like I’ve said before, I’m grateful to be out there and I’m going to take advantage of what I’m given.”
Through four games (and an admittedly small sample size), Lock has completed 15 of 25 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He’s averaging 9.0 yards per attempt, 15.0 yards per completion and connecting on 60 percent of his throws.
Meanwhile, Mauk is 57 of 110 for 654 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s averaging 5.9 yards per attempt, 11.5 yards per completion and connecting on 51.8 percent of his throws.