On a beautiful Saturday afternoon on Faurot Field, and in front of a spirited crowd of more than 23 thousand, Missouri held their 2014 Black & Gold Spring Game. The Tigers 2 squad, which for the first half consisted of players rotating in with Missouri's second team offense and defense, was spotted to a 14-0 lead to begin the scrimmage. During the 20-minute first half, Maty Mauk led the Mizzou 1 squad, Missouri's starters, on three scoring drives, two of which resulted in field goals, to close the halftime gap to 14-13 in favor of the Tigers 2 squad.
In the 16-minute second half, third and fourth stringers also got into the action. With the starters done for the day, the second units took over for the Mizzou 1 squad, while the threes and fours became the Tigers 2 squad.
After barely escaping a safety on first down from the 1-yard line, Trent Hosick engineered a 99-yard scoring drive that consisted primarily of a 93-yard scoring strike to Eric Laurent, who had gotten behind, and then outran, fourth-string corner back Mubarak Nasiruddin down the left side for a TD that was credited to Mizzou 1, to give that squad a 20-14 lead. Seconds later, true freshman QB Marvin Zanders faked a hand-off on the zone read, took it up inside untouched, and showed his speed, as he outran defenders for 80 yards and a score that secured a 21-20 win for the Tigers 2 squad.
Once again, Coach Pinkel talked about the importance to this year's Tigers of continuing to get more young players ready to play, and of continuing to build depth. But anyone watching had to be impressed with the first team offense and defense.Maty Mauk continued to impress, demonstrating the marked improvement in his overall game since last fall, and justifying his Most Improved QB Award. Mauk finished 11-15-0 for 129 yards passing, and scored his 1 TD on the ground. If there was any question about it before Saturday, which there wasn't, Maty Mauk is Missouri's starting QB. And, he appears to be very comfortable in the role.
"He is a lot better of a player than he was before, and he was pretty good last year," stated Coach Pinkel, speaking of Mauk. "I think for quarterbacks, things slow down the more experience you get because you see more. Being a redshirt and still very, very young, he just knows the offense better and reads defenses better, which is typical after playing a third of a season. He is a great competitor. He has a lot of confidence and is a great leader. We are very fortunate to have a young player of his caliber."
Mauk frequently found Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt, and Darius White, while Marcus Murphy looked very good in limited action on a bad wheel. Morgan Steward was the workhorse for the Mizzou 1 squad in the first half, and continued to see action in the second half. He also saw action with the Tigers 2 squad.
Missouri's starting defensive line of Markus Golden, Lucas Vincent, Josh Augusta, and Shane Ray were impressive in their limited snaps, as they led the first team defense in shutting down the back-up offense in the first half.
Along with Steward, sophomore LB Michael Scherer is another one of Missouri's most-improved players.
There were quite a few players who rotated through on the second-team defense, especially at defensive tackle, and at safety.
Now, it's back to off-season workouts for the Tigers, and getting everyone back for the beginning of fall camp.