Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Drew Lock has gotten plenty of firsts out of the way his true freshman season — probably more than he expected. His first snap, first pass and first completion, all on the same play. His first touchdown, his first interception and, in a surprise turn, his first start when starter Maty Mauk was suspended indefinitely.
With that first start came his first win, as he completed 75 percent of his throws and executed a conservative offensive gameplan. The next week brought his first loss, complete with a 41-percent passing performance and two interceptions, including his first pick-6.
But he has not yet started a game on the road. That first comes today when Georgia hosts Missouri at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
“I heard that place is pretty fun to play, pretty loud,” Lock said. “I’m not going to hear very much, and I’m excited for that.”
The decibel level might be the biggest adjustment for Lock. As the players who experienced Missouri’s 2013 win at Georgia can attest, Sanford won’t be confused for a library anytime soon.
“We played there two years ago, so kind of we know what to expect,” offensive lineman Mitch Hall said. “Georgia’s loud, and they’re going to be amped up for this game.”
Lock threw an interception in his first pass at a road stadium this year, at Arkansas State. When the Tigers traveled to Kentucky, Lock completed 3-of-5 passes for 47 yards.
He said he’ll have to make sure he knows his signals as the Tigers prepare for their second conference road game.
“Normally I can kind of see (quarterback coach Andy) Hill’s mouth sometimes, maybe even hear him a couple times,” Lock said. “That kind of helps me out a little bit, being not used signals very much. But I’ll have to fine-tune the signals this week.”
Georgia has intercepted six passes this year, tied for fifth in the Southeastern Conference, and hindering an offense’s ability to communicate can only help.
“That’s the biggest thing there,” Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers said. “I mean that’s what I try to do once I see teams making changes (against us), I try to get the crowd a little louder. That’s definitely something that could make or break a team.”
Missouri quarterbacks have used a clap to signal the snap for much of the season, something that could prove tricky in a loud environment.
“I definitely think it’s going to have to be a louder, crisper clap this week,” Lock said.
Noise is just the latest challenge facing the 18-year old, who has essentially been thrown into the fire against SEC defenses.
“It’s definitely a little difficult, especially when you realize the magnitude of everything that’s going on around you,” Lock said. “It’s Division-I football, it’s SEC football, it’s the University of Missouri, and we hold ourselves to a high standard.”
Last week, Lock took his fair share of hits against Florida, the second-best scoring defense in the conference behind Missouri. Lock acknowledged he may have winced when watching film of the game.
“There’s mental toughness, physical toughness that you have to” develop, head coach Gary Pinkel said. “There’s only one way that you can experience that, because we don’t really (do that) in practice. We don’t sit there and blow you up and you get back up and call the play.”
Lock’s roommate, freshman receiver Cam Hilton, said Lock stayed upbeat after the tough performance against Florida.
“He’s been himself,” Hilton said. “He’s a pretty confident guy, so I don’t think that really affected him mentally.
“… We all knew that was going to be tough, playing in the SEC, so I guess those are the kind of things we expected. And Florida’s defense is probably one of the best defenses we’re going to play all year.”
Lock is still in the process of developing a rapport with his receivers — a few of whom, such as Hilton, are just as young as he.
“He’s a young player, he needs to work on everything,” Pinkel said of Lock, the first true freshman he’s ever started at quarterback. “Reading defenses, I mean I can go on and on, quarterbacking, the discipline of your drops, the depth of your drops. There’s constantly a lot of little things. He’s a young guy.”
Saturday was also the first time all season Lock had to manage with a losing atmosphere, as he only played in relief duty in the Tigers’ first loss of the year.
Still, when you’re a first-year college quarterback, there are always lessons to be had.
“You learn more from adversity,” Pinkel said. “But I’d rather win all my games.”