Missouri’s football season is past disaster mode. Missouri fans are quickly transitioning into Royals fans in preparation to become Star Wars fans. The season is over in the minds of many. An amazing defense was squandered by a historically bad offense that laid waste to the idiom that “Defense wins championships.”
But within the charred and smoldering rubble of the season, a new story emerges. Coach Pinkel has reinstated Maty Mauk after a four-week hiatus due to an unspecified but much discussed “team rule infraction.”
This has implications for the near term, certainly, but the real question is, what will it mean for 2016? Many predicted confidently that Mauk would not see the field for the remainder of this season, which would likely doom him from starting his senior year. His reinstatement changes things significantly. Reports are that Mauk and his freshman counterpart, Drew Lock are listed together as starters on the current depth chart. The ten-day bye-week layoff practices will determine who takes the field against Mississippi State on November 5th.
Even if Lock starts, there seems to be high likelihood that Mauk will take snaps. If he performs well, or at least better than Lock, he could win his job back. If he can pull out a couple of wins and effectively rescue the season, by sending Missouri to the much-maligned Shreveport, Louisiana Independence Bowl, the 2016 quarterback position is back up for grabs.
That scenario is unlikely, however. Given what we’ve seen from this team’s offensive line, receivers, and running backs, what will likely occur is that Drew Lock will continue to start in the near term, and flounder. Mauk will get a few more chances but will be unable to make anything out of them. Both quarterbacks will make more mistakes, take more sacks, and bond over their shared futility.
2015 is very likely still a wasted season for the Tigers. If my prediction holds, I find it very possible that Mauk will transfer in the offseason to somewhere that appreciates his wily ways, leaving Drew Lock alone at the top of the depth chart in the following season.
Keep in mind, all of my current predictions are bathed in pessimism. That has begun to permeate among everyone who has watched this team falter repeatedly. Things could become much less bleak, but when you’re wallowing deep in a pity party, you masochistically crave the pain to continue. A couple long bombs from Lock to Nate Brown, or a 40-yard scamper from Mauk could break me out of my psychological doldrums but, who are we kidding. This 2015 squad is not one that has shown the capability or the will to battle back.
The concept of “lacking heart” is one of those meaningless tropes in the sports world, but there is no question that some teams can find ways to turn around bad seasons, and other teams seem to spiral. I don’t believe this Tiger team is one that knows how to right the ship.
While the defensive players continually deny that animosity is growing between themselves and their offensive counterparts, fractures almost certainly have to be developing. The defense has played at an unbelievably high level, and they’ve got three straight losses to show for it. You’d have to be incredibly forgiving to not let that impact you eventually. Perhaps these guys are. They seem to be great at everything else.
Several players, mostly on offense, do seem to be crumbling. Maty Mauk, J’Mon Moore, Connor McGovern, and Michael Scherer have had mini-hissy fits on social media. Most have been in response to some form of baiting by frustrated fans. Notably, Mauk removed the “MIZ” from his Twitter handle and “favorited” a series of tweets blasting the Lock-led offense. How that squares with resuming his role as team leader still remains to be seen, but all of this petty sniping doesn’t seem like the recipe for a strong-willed comeback.
Lock, meanwhile has kept his nose clean. Coaches report that the struggles haven’t shaken his confidence or poise. He hasn’t blasted back at Twitter trolls. To see him lose his starting job to the troubled Mauk could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the young quarterback’s psyche. For the good of the program, I hope that Mauk’s return means the Tiger sideline has one additional clipboard holder for the rest of 2015.