Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA — At the beginning of the season, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk was drawing comparisons to Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Mauk has struggled to live up to those expectations in his first year as starter. After a fast start, the sophomore has completed just 38 percent of his passes in his past two games for a mere 229 yards, zero touchdowns and a passer rating of 58.6.
So naturally, Mauk’s new trendy QB comparison is… Tom Brady?
“We’re going to be fine,” offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. “I know you wouldn’t watch Saturday and think that, but you wouldn’t think the New England Patriots would come back and win the way they played at Chiefs that Monday night and they beat Cincinnati the week after that, who was supposedly the No. 1 team in the NFL. So I think it’s all week to week.”
Brady bounced back from a 159-yard, two-interception Sept. 29 performance against Kansas City with six touchdowns and 653 combined yards over the next two weeks, both wins for New England.
Mauk said quarterback coach Andy Hill also brought up the Brady comparison.
“In football, nobody’s perfect,” Mauk said. “Coach Hill told me Tom Brady played against the Chiefs and didn’t have a good game, but what’d he do the next week? He came out and had one of his better games. … I’m going to use that. I promise you I’m going to get better this week, and we’re going to come out firing this week.”
Mauk is under scrutiny after a 34-0 loss to Georgia on Saturday. Mauk, who threw four interceptions in the game and lost a fumble, said it was the first time he had ever been shut out.
“If really you go back and you look at the film, there was no execution whatsoever,” Mauk said.
The offense foundered, running just 43 plays for 147 total yards. The five plays Missouri ran in Georgia territory resulted in three turnovers and a penalty.
Mauk spent much of the game abandoning the pocket. However, unlike Missouri’s loss to Indiana — when the Tigers’ offensive line looked in shambles after left guard Anthony Gatti went down with a torn ACL — it wasn’t all out of necessity.
Henson said that, though Missouri’s lineman struggled with protection at times, Mauk was a little too reliant on the scramble against Georgia.
“The first few pass plays, we kind of let guys go in (Mauk’s) face, which I think kind of spooked him,” Henson said, “but then you’ve got to hang in there, and you’ve got to trust and keep believing in it. Because as the game went along (the protection) got better. … We had guys open, and we weren’t hanging in there long enough to make those reads and get those plays done.”
Finding the balance between having Mauk stay in the pocket and utilizing his mobility has been a topic of much discussion all year. Hill and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel have emphasized that it’s not as simple as commanding Mauk to stay behind his linemen.
“As soon as you say ‘Hang in the pocket,’ there’s going to be a run you could’ve had,” Hill said. “Or if you say, ‘Hey, get on the run,’ you could’ve stayed there and thrown the ball. It’s just a feel thing, and you’ve got to go through what you’re progressions are, whatever the reads are going to be. First read, second read, and then if it’s not there, if you feel pressure, just do what you do naturally.”
Another knock against Mauk’s eagerness to leave the pocket is the fact that it might actually be playing into defenses’ hands.
“I don’t know that anybody’s tried to get him out of the pocket by what they’ve done scheme-wise,” Henson said. “I think people, more than anything, they kind of want to contain him, kind of keep him in the pocket. So, that’s what I’ve seen anyways, as far as the pass rush. People have kind of rushed up the field and tried to have wide rushes and rushed around us.”
Henson has conceded Missouri might need to simplify its playbook to get the offense back on track. While Mauk is still getting a feel in his first full season as starter, he is also dealing with a lack of experience at wide receiver — especially with injuries to seniors Darius White and Jimmie Hunt.
“We’ve got to make sure that it’s simple for him, that we get open, that he feels comfortable with it, that he’s repped it, and that he feels confident delivering the football,” Henson said. “That’s the bottom line. That’s all it comes down to. We’ll get back to that.”
In light of Mauk’s recent woes, Henson said he has been asked if height and visibility are factors for the 6-foot quarterback.
“Somebody asked me that the other day,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of good 6-foot tall quarterbacks. I’m sure it was hard for them all to see at some points of time. I think the more dangerous thing is as a quarterback if you start looking at the rush more than you’re keeping your eyes downfield. You’ve got to really keep your eyes down field and feel the rush, not look at it.”
At the very least, Mauk’s height allows for more NFL quarterback comparisons.
“I mean, was it hard for Chase Daniel to see?” Henson asked. “I don’t know. Was it hard for Drew Brees to see? I don’t know. I think Maty sees things well.”