Missouri quarterbacks wilt in spring tilt

Saturday, April 20, 2013 | 7:49 p.m. CDT; updated 7:59 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 20, 2013
Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk runs the ball at the spring Black & Gold game Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Mizzou 1, the starters team, defeated Tigers 2, the reserve team, 21-14.

COLUMBIA — Gary Pinkel and Chase Daniel stood in Faurot Field's south end zone with hardhats and shovels Saturday morning.

The Missouri head coach and the Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback were there to conduct a ceremonial groundbreaking for additions to Memorial Stadium. The iconic "Rock M" hill was in the distant background, its grass torn up and white boulders removed by construction crews working on the north concourse. 

After athletic director Mike Alden's announcement of a mammoth renovation for the stadium's east side, Pinkel stepped up to the microphone and admitted he had a quarterback problem.

"I asked Chase if he has any eligibility left," Pinkel said with a quick grin. After watching Saturday afternoon's Black & Gold game, Missouri fans might be wondering the same thing.

This spring's quarterback competition between James Franklin, Maty Mauk and Corbin Berkstresser hit a new low point during the team's final scrimmage.

The signs were there early on: Mauk's first interception of the day informed the announced crowd of 18,384 that it was not in for an impressive aerial display.

He trotted off the field, but the coaches instructed him to turn around and get back in the offensive huddle. It was a small test to see how Mauk would respond to failure. He waved fellow quarterback Corbin Berkstresser off the field and called out the signals. The fans looked on, hoping Mauk would bounce back with a long touchdown drive.

It never came. Mauk threw another interception on his first pass of the drive, a dart right into the chest of redshirt freshman cornerback John Gibson.

That two-drive sequence set the tone for the entire day at Faurot Field. Mauk completed some throws in the second half, but almost all of the Tigers' key players were sitting out by then. The first half was his big opportunity, and he came up short.

"I made a few good throws," Mauk said. "But the interceptions were rough."

Mauk's only saving grace is that his two competitors for the quarterback spot were also underwhelming.

Senior James Franklin led two touchdown drives with the No. 1 offensive unit, but they were buoyed by big plays from running backs. Redshirt junior Marcus Murphy ripped off two nice runs to put the first-teamers on the board in the first quarter. 

The second touchdown was set up by Mauk's second interception. Franklin tossed a swing pass to sophomore Russell Hansbrough, who dodged a couple of defenders en route to a 30-yard gain. Redshirt junior Henry Josey punched in a 1-yard touchdown on the ensuing play.

Franklin was okay through the air, completing nine of his 15 passes for 80 yards, but his throws often lacked zip. Under-thrown passes ruined two nice routes by redshirt junior wide receiver Bud Sasser that might have gone for big plays. Sasser could only watch as they landed well out of his reach.

Still, Franklin somehow found himself as the favorite for the starting job thanks to the woes of Mauk and Berkstresser.

The latter was putting together a solid first half drive with the No. 1 unit until he threw a very inaccurate ball in the direction of sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Redshirt sophomore cornerback David Johnson leaped in the air to pull down the easy interception near the goal line.

Green-Beckham, who had three catches for 49 yards today and was named "Most Improved Wide Receiver," said the quarterback carousel does not affect his route-running.

"You've just got to play the ball in the air," Green-Beckham said. "Once the ball is in the air, it doesn't matter who is in the backfield."

The former five-star recruit attempted to discuss the positives of today's quarterback performances, but struggled to nail down anything inspiring.

Mauk threw more interceptions (2) in the first half than completions that went for first downs (1). He scrambled often, but the "one-hand touch" rule for quarterbacks limited his elusiveness and prevented him from breaking a long gain until the second half. 

Head coach Gary Pinkel said he will set a temporary depth chart in the upcoming week, and that the quarterback competition will continue in August.

Chase Daniel will be back in Kansas City by then.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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