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Mauk has filled in admirably at quarterback for Tigers

Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk eludes Tennessee linebacker Dontavis Sapp on a 19-yard gain during the first half of Saturday night’s game at Faurot Field.

Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk eludes Tennessee linebacker Dontavis Sapp on a 19-yard gain during the first half of Saturday night’s game at Faurot Field. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA — It’s a luxury not many teams are afforded, not even in the mighty Southeastern Conference.

“It’s very rare when your backup quarterback can play close to what the starter can play,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said Monday.

But the Missouri Tigers have been blessed, as backup Maty Mauk has performed admirably while starter James Franklin has missed the last few weeks with a sprained right (throwing) shoulder.

“I felt fortunate that Maty’s done a good job,” Pinkel said. “I think what’s helped Maty without question is that we’re playing well on the offensive line, the receiving corps is intact, everybody’s intact around him, which allows him a much better shot at being successful than with some of the problems we’ve had in the past.”

It appears Mauk will be the starter for at least one more week — No. 9 Missouri (8-1, 4-1 SEC) travels to face Kentucky (2-6, 0-4 SEC) at 11 a.m. Saturday (ESPNU-TV) — as the redshirt freshman was listed first on the depth chart released Monday, followed by true freshman Eddie Printz and finally by Franklin.

Franklin is listed as questionable for the second consecutive week, although he dressed out during Missouri’s 31-3 victory against Tennessee last Saturday and could have played at the end of the game had the situation called for it.

“The medical staff will make a decision probably Thursday on what we’re going to do,” Pinkel said of Franklin’s status, unwilling to discuss further that situation.

There seems to be no rush to get Franklin back thanks to Mauk’s play as a starter the last three weeks.

The same can’t be said for Florida (Tyler Murphy taking over for Jeff Driskel), South Carolina (Dylan Thompson for Connor Shaw) and Tennessee (Joshua Dobbs for Justin Worley), which have all struggled when their starting quarterback has been sidelined.

“I think it’s true at every level - you can go to the NFL, you can look at college football — you can name a dozen teams and all of a sudden the starter goes out and you’re not going to be able to match what’s on the field,” Pinkel said.

“I don’t know if we’re just going through a cycle here. I hear more this year of quarterbacks getting hit than ever before. NCAA statistics would suggest people are throwing the ball a lot more, which means you’re a little more vulnerable back there in the pocket. So I think that’s a part of it.

“Now the thing is if your quarterback can run and also throw the football, then he’s more vulnerable also. There’s a lot of things that have changed, but I really think you maybe have to wait and let the cycle clear here and see what happens.”

With the Missouri offense in good hands with Mauk - averaging better than 30 points per game in his three starts - the understudy acknowledges there’s no quarterback controversy when Franklin is fit to play.

“It’s James’ offense right now,” Mauk said. “When he comes back I’m going to go back to my role of taking the (second-stringers). While he’s not, I’m going to prepare like I’m starting either way. When he comes back it’s his and I’ll back him up, but right now I’m just going to play football and do what I have to do.”

Mauk said Franklin looks about ready.

“You could tell coming in the other day at practice, he was putting some stuff on his throws,” he said. “He’s looking good. It’s just a matter of time until he comes back and he’ll take back over.”

III

Backup defensive tackle Marvin Foster had surgery Sunday night after tearing his bicep tendon during Saturday’s game. Foster amassed eight tackles in nine games.

“He’s doing well,” Pinkel said. “He’s been through so much here. He’s had a lot of surgeries. I know three for sure, I might have missed one or two. He’s been through an awful lot. He’s already graduated from Mizzou and he’s in graduate school. He came back his fifth year. A lot of guys with that many injuries wouldn’t come back, they’ve had enough. He’s had a great year. It was real emotional for him. He’s been such a great leader... and the good news is that can continue.”

Expect freshman Josh August to get additional playing time in Foster’s stead.

“That’s asking a lot of a freshman to come in and play... but he’s really done a good job,” Pinkel said. “He keeps getting better and better. He will get more reps than he has in the past. He has a great future.”

III

Mauk and Justin Britt were named the SEC top freshman and offensive lineman of the week, respectively, for their play during Saturday’s game.

Mauk accounted for 277 yards of total offense and threw threw touchdown passes, while Britt anchored an offensive line that helped the Tigers rush for a whopping 339 yards.

The two awards mark the eighth and ninth weekly SEC honors earned by the Tigers this season, one more than the previous program record in 2007 when Missouri played in the Big 12.

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