Opinion tigers

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. As redshirt freshman quarterback Maty Mauk takes the snap, he 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 seal a win against the visiting Gators. He had eased the fears of the MU faithful in one swift touchdown run.

After the injury to senior quarterback James Franklin during the Georgia game gave Mauk the starting QB nod, many looked toward’s MU’s game against Florida with uncertainty. Franklin was having a career season, having thrown for 1,577 yards and 14 touchdowns in just six games. Mauk entered the Florida game with just six pass attempts this season, and he had no prior experience against an SEC opponent. The Gators entered the game with a 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 single-season high school record for passing yards with 5,760 during his junior season at Kenton High School. Mauk’s high school accolades include 219 touchdowns, 1,353 pass completions and 18,932 yards, all of which set national high school national records. He was recruited by schools such as Notre Dame, Michigan and Vanderbilt, but ultimately chose MU. Mauk redshirted in 2012, and spent the majority of the 2013 as Franklin’s backup. Saturday’s game against Florida was his first test as a starter, 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. He didn’t appear quite as composed and developed as Franklin, as he often appeared a bit unomfortable in the pocket. Florida also had several missed opportunities to intercept the ball, and forced MU kicker Andrew Baggett to kick five field goals by consistently stopping Mauk and the offense in the red zone.

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 man up in a recent trend of 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, and Mauk has now joined their ranks.

“Mauktober” is in full swing, and Missouri fans can take comfort in knowing that the future is bright for MU football.

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