Published on October 20th, 2013 | by John Heniff, Staff writer
Mauk eases fears after performance against Florida
Fourth quarter. 6:41 remaining in the game. The Tigers hold only a 12-point lead over the Florida Gators in a game that is long from over. After a fumble forced by redshirt sophomore Shane Ray, redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk takes the snap and is immediately confronted by two Florida defenders to his left and right. Instead of running to the outside like he had done on past drives, Mauk instead runs through the pocket into open field and dashes into the end zone to put the final nail in the coffin for the visiting Gators. He had eased the fears of the MU faithful in one swift touchdown run.
After the announced injury to senior quarterback James Franklin during the Georgia game gave Mauk the starting QB nod, many looked toward the Florida game with uncertainty. Franklin was having a career season, throwing for 1,577 yards and 14 touchdowns in just six games. Mauk entered the Florida game with just six pass attempts this season, and no prior experience against an SEC opponent. The Gators entered the game with its defense ranked in the top 10 in eight different categories. The most points Florida had allowed this season was 21 against the Miami Hurricanes, meaning that the deck was stacked against Mauk.
Mauk had proven himself in high school as one of the best quarterbacks to grace the state of Ohio. Mauk set a national prep record for passing yards with 5,760 his junior season at Kenton High School. Over his four-year career, he compiled 219 touchdowns, 1,353 pass completions and 18,932 yards, all of which set national high school national records. He was heavily recruited by several schools out including Notre Dame, Michigan and Vanderbilt, but ultimately chose MU. Mauk was red-shirted in 2012 and spent the majority of the 2013 as Franklin’s back up. Saturday’s game against Florida was his first test, and he took full advantage of the opportunity.
To begin the game, Mauk caught the Florida defense off-guard with a 41-yard pass to red shirt senior L’Damian Washington. Florida was hit with a 15-yard targeting penalty on the play, and Mauk took advantage of the fault with a 20-yard pass to redshirt junior Bud Sasser to put MU up 7-0 just 22 seconds into the game.
Not every drive was as easy as that one, as Mauk’s inexperience showed multiple times against a well-rounded Florida defense. Often times after receiving the snap, he would just stand wherever he had the ball as if his legs were cemented to the Faurot Field grass while he was looking for a receiver wdownfield. Florida also had several missed opportunities to intercept the ball, and on several occasions stopped the MU offense in the red-zone, forcing red shirt sophomore Andrew Baggett to kick a total five field goals (a feat that tied a 21-year-old MU record).
Regardless, Mauk ended the game by 18-of-36 for 295 yards through the air against one of the nation’s better defenses. He may have racked up an interception in the first half, but he also passed and ran for touchdowns while doing a great job of managing the game. Leading your school to 500 yards of offense against any team–especially a perennial SEC contender–in the situation he was forced into has to be seen as a great accomplishment. Mauk may be the next in line to a recent trend in great quarterbacks to start at MU. Brad Smith, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and even James Franklin all won their first game as the starting QB, now Mauk has joined their ranks. We’ve now reached the point in the college football schedule where legends are cementing their legacies. Mauk’s legacy at MU has gotten its first historic entry. “Mauktober” is in full swing, and Tiger fans can sleep easy before game day knowing the future is bright for MU football.