Even five seasons after playing his last game at Missouri, Chase Daniel remains intensely invested in the program he helped redefine and propel in 2007 to a No. 1 ranking for the first time in nearly half a century.
Virtually ever since he left, Daniel, now the Chiefs No. 2 quarterback, has retained a kinship with MU staff and players, particularly his successors at quarterback.
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That’s why on Saturday night after Mizzou’s historic win at Georgia, its first on the campus of a top 10 team since 1978, Daniel texted coach Gary Pinkel for the cellphone number of freshman quarterback Maty Mauk.
By his recollection, here’s the voluminous text message to Mauk, who had stepped in adeptly for the injured James Franklin (shoulder) and now will be expected to do so for the estimated three to five weeks Franklin will miss:
“Go out there and play. Don’t worry about the circumstances. Don’t worry about anything else except this upcoming game. Prepare your very best, like I know you have. You’re experience early in the year will pay off for you. This team believes in you. Go out there with confidence and just play ball. Don’t try to overthink it, Just do what you do best, and that’s just play ball.”
They are different players from different eras in different situations.
But Daniel can relate now to Mauk in a whole new way since they suddenly have strikingly similar experiences on their resumes in what for each will be remembered as his true debut for the Tigers.
Last Saturday, in the sixth game of a season that began with Pinkel’s job in peril after a losing previous year, the Tigers were being swarmed into apparent retreat in the fourth quarter at Georgia.
And then Franklin, MU’s star senior quarterback, was crunched out of the game, leaving the already reeling team in the hands of freshman stand-in Mauk.
It was all reminiscent of the less memorable but more pivotal scene on Oct. 15, 2005.
In the sixth game of a season that began with Pinkel’s job in peril after a losing previous year, Mizzou’s Brad Smith got thumped in the head with MU losing 24-14 to Iowa State in the fourth quarter.
In trotted Daniel, a freshman who ignited a comeback that included an 87-yard TD drive in the final 2:32 as Mizzou won 27-24 in overtime.
That narrowest of wins was a dividing line between whether MU would have a winning regular season or fail again to make a bowl game, a distinction that even Pinkel has since suggested was the difference between him retaining his job or not after going 5-6 in 2004.
Really, then, that 2005 victory made possible Mizzou’s breakthrough Saturday at then-No. 7 Georgia — a victory that seemed to cement Pinkel’s job security after last season’s 5-7 dip.
It also suggests 6-0 and 14th-ranked Missouri is, after all, in its element in the Southeastern Conference as it prepares to play host Saturday to No. 22 Florida.
And that redefining likely wouldn’t have happened without Mauk’s stopgap work for Franklin when Georgia had rallied from 18 down to close it to 28-26.
Inheriting a third and 6 after Franklin left the field with a shoulder injury, Mauk ran for a first down that led to his overhead lateral to receiver Bud Sasser, who in turn threw a 40-yard touchdown pass. Mauk’s 20-yard pass to Dorial Green-Beckham set up another TD to put it away at 41-26.
Daniel sees the parallel in those two scenarios even though MU still was leading when Mauk came in.
“But, really, Georgia had the momentum, and he kept the drive alive,” Daniel said. “If they go three and out there, it’s (groans). He probably might not realize it, but that was a big deal to be able to do that.
“He just looked cool and calm, like, ‘Hey, I’ve been here and done that.’”
Spoken by one who almost always looked like that.
Pausing and smiling, Daniel added, “I know that the kid has a lot of confidence; he reminds me of myself a lot in that aspect.”
Not that there is any real comparing Mauk to the singular Daniel, MU’s career total offense leader, or even at this stage Mauk to Franklin.
“The season (Franklin) was having, he was playing as well as any quarterback to ever to play at this school,” said Daniel, whose message to Franklin is that he’s still essential: “‘Your leadership is invaluable, and you need to show that to your team.’”
Now it’s on Mauk to advance the cause, starting with a different sort of task this week since he enters the game knowing he’ll start against one of the best defenses in college football.
A week ago, Mauk was reacting and reacted well. Now, he has the blessing and the burden of knowing it’s on him all week long.
“It’s going to be different in the sense that he gets time to think about this plan of attack, and sometimes that can be a good thing and sometimes that can be bad,” said Daniel, who didn’t start for the first time until the opening game of the 2006 season since Smith was back for the next week’s game in 2005. “And that’s what I told him: ‘Don’t worry about all the outside influences and just play with confidence.’”
One thing Daniel can relate to even when he was thrown into the most awkward of inaugurations.
“I’m excited for the kid; I see a lot of parallels,” he said. “But I want him to go out and just do his own thing.”