Meet Maty Mauk, quarterback for the University of Missouri Tigers’ football team. He’s the key to Missouri winning the SEC.
Mauk isn’t the most talented quarterback in college football. He doesn’t have the dual-threat ability of Texas Christian’s Trevone Boykin, nor does he have the pin-point accuracy of Southern California’s Cody Kessler, but he’s a winner. Maty Mauk has won 14 of his 18 career starts, led Missouri to the SEC Eastern Division title in 2014, and a victory in the 2015 Citrus Bowl.
Despite showing composure while winning 3 of his 4 starts in 2013 as he filled for injured starter James Franklin, Maty Mauk simply wasn’t ready to be the head of Missouri’s offense as a sophomore in 2014.
Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report’s lead writer for the SEC, is among those displeased with Mauk’s 2014 showing. “I mean for 3 quarters, he was mediocre at best,” Sallee said, “Then in the 4th quarter, he just lit up.”
According to cfbstats.com, Mauk completed an abysmal 52.2% of his passes in the first 3 quarters. Mauk also threw 16 touchdowns to an alarming 13 interceptions through the first 3 quarters of each game in 2014.
Where Mauk was inconsistent through the first 45 minutes of each game, he was completely different when the final quarter came around in 2014. Mauk never threw an interception in the 4th quarter of any game last year, throwing 9 touchdowns, and completing 58% of his passes.
“He brings kind of that gunslinger mentality to his game sometimes(…)he just brings too much risk into what he does sometimes. I don’t think they need him to do that,” David Ching, staff writer for ESPN, said, “And as often as he does it, it’s gotten kind of ugly at points.”
Dave Matter, Missouri Tigers beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was aware of Mauk’s struggles as well.
“Mauk had 3 games last year where he really couldn’t struggle anymore than he did,” Matter said.
The games that Matter is referring to is a stretch of 3 games where Missouri played 3 SEC division foes. They won against South Carolina 21-20, they lost to Georgia the following week 34-0 and then beat Florida 42-13. Over that 3 conference game stretch, Mauk completed just 36.9% of his passes, for 249 yards, no touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Even in Missouri’s blowout win over Florida, Mauk had little contribution, completing only 6 of his 18 passes for a measly 20 yards.
“He was atrocious against Georgia and against Florida,” Ching said, “He was absolutely atrocious against Florida. One of the worst stat lines you’ll see an SEC quarterback have.”
If Missouri wants to win the division again, they’ll need to play better than they did last year, which constitutes not having an upset loss like their 31-27 loss to Indiana last year, or being shutout against a team like Georgia. Many are asking if Missouri has enough to become division champs again.
“You just need Maty Mauk to be serviceable and even good a couple of times, and you’re looking at a team that’s going to contend for the East again,” Ching said.
Missouri enters the season with a group of wide receivers that have combined for 10 career catches. They’ll need time to not only develop their pass catchers, but time for Mauk to improve his confidence before entering the thick of conference play.
Luckily for them, their schedule creates just that opportunity.
Many experts believe Missouri could just as well start the season 6-0. In their first 6 games, Missouri only plays 2 teams that finished with a winning record in 2014, Arkansas State and Florida—both finished the regular season 7-5. Missouri also has the benefit of playing 4 of their first 6 games at home, with their only road games being against aforementioned Arkansas State and Kentucky.
“There’s only a couple of games where they [Missouri] really have to do anything in the passing game,” Ching said, “ If you look at the schedule, they play in the [SEC] East, and the [SEC] East isn’t exactly loaded, and look at the teams they play in the West…Mississippi State….and Arkansas…that’s not exactly Alabama and Auburn, those are manageable games.”
In fact, Mauk won’t be out there alone. Running back Russell hansbrough returns after rushing for 1,000 yards in 2014 and sophomore Ish Witter replaces Marcus Murphy as the explosive backup runner.
Dave Matter is one who thinks Missouri’s ceiling could be even higher than a 3-peat as division champs. “The ceiling is winning the East, without any bad games like Indiana last year, and be a top-15 team. That’s for winning the SEC East,” Matter said, “To win the SEC, for anyone from the East, unless a team comes up, they’re likely going to be the underdog to the team from the West, whether it’s Auburn or Alabama. But for those games, you only need to be better for one game to beat those guys.”
But for Missouri to get there and to have the opportunity of winning the SEC, Mauk needs to improve. Mauk’s completion percentage of 53.4% ranked 111th in the nation in 2014, while his pedestrian passer rating of 120.8 ranked 87th nationally. Mauk still threw for the fourth most touchdowns in the SEC though (25) and the likelihood that a player like himself will plateau in development or even regress, is very low. As Mauk gains more experience, his numbers will see a dramatic increase. Missouri fans have been spoiled by quarterbacks preceding Mauk.
Brad Smith was arguably the greatest dual-threat quarterback in history, Chase Daniel was a Heisman finalist in 2007, Blaine Gabbert eventually became a first round pick, and James Franklin was a well balanced dual-threat quarterback. None of those passers needed time to develop, they all showed composure and elite talent the second they took over, Mauk has taken slower to become cool and composed, but with the favorable schedule, and his continued development, Maty Mauk has the SEC in the palm of his hand.
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