“Not a whole lot,” Coach Dan Mullen said today.
If anything the attention given to Mauk’s short-lived return last week did not have a whole lot of impact anyway. By the time Mississippi State got confirmation Missouri’s veteran quarterback was coming off a month-long suspension, half of the bye-week practices were done. That left jus a couple of days to start throwing something together for a playmaker who, though struggling this season, did have a couple of SEC Eastern Division titles on his resume.
Sunday though came final, presumably, word Mauk had been not just re-suspended but sidelined entirely. In his five games Mauk was a 52% passer with six touchdowns and four interceptions, and the team’s third-leading rusher.
More to the point, Missouri with Mauk was 4-1 with a split of East games. Since then the Tigers have lost all three games, and in the process scored just four field goals. The offense is now in new hands with Drew Lock shoved into the job ahead of schedule.
After playing in eight games and starting four of them Lock isn’t really a rookie. Nor, said Mullen, does Missouri turn into something entirely different on offense.
“They’ve been playing him for a couple of weeks now. They’re going to run their system. They’re going to do what they do, it’s not like they’ve completely changed who they are at the quarterback position.”
Lock did get off to a good start, so to speak, as Missouri beat South Carolina in his first game to take the first snap. Lock does change one Tiger tactic though. Where Mauk wasn’t shy to tuck and tote the freshman gives the ball to somebody. Not only has he thrown more passes than Mauk already, the Missouri season statistics do not list a single rushing play for Lock. Unless UM uses a pro-style stat system which doesn’t count sacks against the quarterback, it means Lock neither runs on his own or takes losses.
He is completing just over half those thrown balls, with three touchdowns and as many interceptions. This, Mullen warned, isn’t exactly what it seems.
“The one thing that has jumped out to me, they have just missed some throws. It’s not like they aren’t playing well, they are inches away from putting up a lot of big numbers and a lot of big plays.
Mullen pointed to the most recent Missouri game, a frustrating 10-3 loss at Vanderbilt where review shows Tiger targets open. Often. “With a little bit of pressure he just over-throws them. I’m talking about three or four times it maybe have been 60- or 70-yard plays.”
Missouri doesn’t get those sorts of plays on the ground. But they do have a pair of productive runners who can grind defenses down given the chance. Russell Hansbrough and Ish Witter are better backs than their combined 3.9-yard average gain shows. If the air attack forces foes to loosen things up the ground game becomes that much more problematic for State’s scheming.
Maybe the real challenge is taking on an offensive line with four seniors starting. Center Evan Boehm has started every one of his 48 varsity games, and left tackle Connor McGovern own 36 starts. The combined experience, not to mention average 307 pound size, is how Missouri has absorbed just 20 sacks despite juggling quarterbacks.
It adds up to a unit meriting more scouting respect than the scoreboard has shown so far, Mullen figures. No, the results aren’t eye-opening, but MSU’s coach figures the Tigers have reason to be encouraged about November.
“As you’re watching you say we’re not far off from where we need to be. I’m sure that’s how they are looking at it.”