Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
Maty Mauk has returned from his suspension, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel confirmed in a Southeastern Conference teleconference Wednesday.
The junior quarterback missed four games during his suspension for an undisclosed violation of team policies, which was announced Sept. 29.
“Maty is back with the team, welcomed with open arms,” Pinkel said. “Like anybody that goes through suspension, that’s what we do here. They’re part of the family, and (we) welcomed him back in practice Tuesday.”
Pinkel would not disclose where Mauk sat on the depth chart, saying “playing-time decisions” wouldn’t be made until next week. Missouri has an open week before hosting Mississippi State for a Thursday night game Nov. 5.
Pinkel also refused to discuss when Mauk’s return was decided upon or what went into that decision. He also wouldn’t say what work Mauk was able to do during his suspension to keep in game shape.
“(Mauk) wants to speak to the team today, which I thought was great,” Pinkel said in the teleconference, which took place Wednesday morning. “He came up to me and said how he’d like to talk to the team, apologize to the team. And he’s going to do that today, this afternoon. That’s really great of him to do that, and he’s really excited to be back.”
Pinkel said the program’s handling of the suspension was consistent with what he has done in the past.
“There’s a plan in place, if anything happens, what we do and how we handle it,” he said. “We always do what the right thing is. A lot of people probably wouldn’t have done what we did, but we do what’s right. And that’s always the way I’ve made every decision I’ve ever had here.”
True freshman Drew Lock has started all four games in Mauk’s absence. The Tigers won Lock’s debut 24-10 against South Carolina but haven’t scored a touchdown since, losing to Florida, Georgia and Vanderbilt.
Pinkel said his team wasn’t blaming the loss of its starting quarterback for the losing streak.
“At the end of the day, what I teach our kids in this football program, and they’re going to apply it the rest of their life, there’s no excuses for anything,” Pinkel said. “There’s no reasons. We still have responsibilities to win football games. So really, we don’t talk about that. We don’t say, ‘Woe is me,’ or anything like that at all. We don’t do that.
“Bottom line is move the next guy over and up, and bottom line, we have to win football games together as a team. Unfortunately we’ve been struggling a little bit on offense, and we’ve been playing exceptional defense that’s kept us in the game, and we’re trying to improve and get better like we do every week, whether you play good or you don’t.”
Pinkel refused to comment on Lock’s response to Mauk returning to the team.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said in the teleconference he saw positive signs from Lock in the Commodores’ 10-3 win.
“I believe Drew’s going to be a great quarterback when I look at him,” Mason said. “He’s a young quarterback in this league, and this league makes young quarterbacks grow up fast. The thing that he did, in my opinion, was take care of the football, and anytime you take care of the football, you give yourself a chance, but I think he’s accurate. I think he’s athletic. I think he’s got a good command of what they’re doing on film, based upon what I had seen and what I had watched.
“He put the ball in position for guys to make plays, and he just needs more of his guys to make plays for him. That comes with continuity over time and just making sure that there’s trust there, and I think, as he continues to play, he’s only going to get better.”
Missouri’s game against Mississippi State will be the Tigers’ first Thursday night game since 2009. The Bulldogs played two Thursday night games in 2013 and two in 2011. Mississippi State also has a bye this week.
“You can look at it as, you almost get two bye weekends, if you spread it out that way,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “It becomes a little bit different deal. So that was kind of the advantage of it, was to have almost two bye weekends for our kids to have a little bit of time off and to get rest between games — even though it does take a little bit away of just the bye week in itself.”
Mullen did note, however, that the game’s 8:15 start time is unusually late.
“I mean, everytime we’ve (played on Thursday night) before, it’s started at 6:30, not at 8:15,” he said. “So, you might say, ‘Oh, it’s only an hour and 45 minutes later,’ but our kids have school Friday morning. They’re students, and it’s a big difference getting home at 2:30 and getting home at 4:15 when you’ve got school the next morning.”