Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — It took less than an hour into the Missouri football season for Drew Lock to see the field.
The much-discussed true freshman quarterback made his debut at 3:59 p.m. Saturday on the Tigers’ first drive of the second quarter.
“I had to take a couple big breaths,” Lock said. “(Senior center) Evan (Boehm) was big in helping me on that and just kind of (helped me) relax a little bit. I knew I would play my best ball if I was relaxed, so I had to get that way.”
Lock looked plenty relaxed on his first drive, completing his first four passes for gains of four, 22, 21 and four yards.
“After I got my first play out of the way, I knew that I would be all right,” Lock said, “And I feel like I played pretty well after that.”
Lock’s drive ended with a field goal after he purposely threw a pass away and failed to evade a five-yard sack by John Popovich.
“He did his job,” starting quarterback Maty Mauk said. “He drove, the offense got down there and got points, and that’s what you want to do as a quarterback. Yeah, you want to get six, but he did his part. He drove the offense, he executed, and he did everything they asked him to do, so you know he’s just got to continue to execute and be ready at all times.”
The amount of playing time Lock would get with Mauk in front of him drew plenty of speculation when Missouri decided to forgo the freshman’s redshirt season.
Pinkel has used backup quarterbacks on designed drives in the past, something Mauk saw when previous starter James Franklin was still in black and gold.
“He’s playing at a high level, so you’ve got to get him in there and get him reps, and he’s got to be ready,” Mauk said. “It’s the same thing with me and James, the next quarterback is one play away from having to come in there and be full-time.”
Mauk greeted Lock as he exited the field following his first drive.
“He’s been really good to me as far as helping me learn and teaching me everything that I need to know,” Lock said of Mauk. “I couldn’t be more thankful for the things that he’s done for me, and to just kind of calm me down, like I said, even Maty had to do it. It was a little emotional for me.”
By his second drive, Lock said the butterflies were gone.
“Once I came back out on the field, it was pretty much, ‘I’ve been here before already,’” he said. “Maybe it was only one drive, but you have been here before, so calm down.”
On the sixth play of the drive, Lock moved out of the pocket to his left, scanned back to his right and connected with tailback Tyler Hunt for a 78-yard score on what appeared to be a broken play.
Lock said it wasn’t exactly the first career touchdown he was expecting.
“No, not at all. Even in practice we’ll just run normal drills, and I’ll overthrow Tyler,” the 6-foot-4 quarterback said of the 5-foot-11 tailback. “Seeing that it was Tyler, I mean, I couldn’t be more proud to throw a touchdown in a game, but to (throw it) to Tyler was pretty cool.”
It was also the first touchdown for Hunt, a former walk-on from Westran High School in mid-Missouri.
Lock said he knew before the game he would get to play the first drive of the second quarter, which meant there was some sitting around to do before his big moment came.
“I was more concerned about what the defense was doing, just trying to figure out what they were doing,” he said, “because I wanted to go in there and be the most successful quarterback that I can be. So I mean, (the wait) was a little long, and it drug on, and I wanted to get in there, but it was a good wait, I guess.”
Lock also shared a moment on the sidelines with fellow true freshman Terry Beckner Jr., a high-profile defensive tackle recruit out of East St. Louis (Ill.).
“He knew that we could do something special here, and I feel like that’s what maybe you saw a little hint of tonight,” Lock said. “I mean, not saying the whole world’s coming down because we played and we played semi-well, but we have some playmakers in our class.”
Lock said he hoped to secure one of the top three spots of the depth chart in fall camp, and he succeeded in outplaying backups Eddie Printz, Marvin Zanders and Corbin Berkstresser.
“I came in with open arms, to be honest,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to put myself in the best position to be on the top of the list, and that’s what I feel like my main goal was during camp, and that was just my zoom focus there, was to put myself in the best position possible.”
Lock said he has picked up a lot from playing under Mauk, especially the importance of getting rid of the ball quickly — something he said he could have done better when he took a sack.
“I’m learning well from Maty,” he said. “It’s just totally different from high school ball, being 18 years old and all. It’s just a whole different world of football. It’s digesting what defenses are running, not just knowing what your guys are running.”
Lock finished the game with 138 passing yards on 6-of-10 throwing, though it wasn’t until after the game that it all sunk in.
“It kind of hits me now that it’s college football,” he said. “It was just, I’m going to try to go out there and make plays and give it to my playmakers. And now that I sit back and I sat down in the locker room, I was like, ‘That was Division I football on a big scale,’ and it’s pretty cool. Pretty cool.”