COLUMBIA — Bam.
The way Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson describes it, some early-season football teams can be just that. Bam.
Take the Missouri Tigers of 2013 and the unit that went on to notch the country's 14th-best point production per game (39.1) under Henson in his first year.
"There's a lot of new guys (this year)," Henson said. "Last year, we picked up and started off pretty fast because we had a lot of returning experience."
And though he noted the experience on this year's roster, he also recognized the differences.
"Not every year does it just come together like, 'Bam, we're awesome,'" he said.
On Saturday morning, as the rain fell and as Henson watched his unit operate inside the team's practice facility for its second major scrimmage of fall camp, things were not awesome.
"We started horribly," Henson said. "I was having to give myself positive self-talk."
Quarterback Maty Mauk's opening four passes went to three senior wideouts stepping into starting roles this season. The first couldn't be corralled by Darius White, and the second went just beyond his reach deep down the right sideline, and the third to Jimmie Hunt couldn't be gathered in traffic, and the fourth flew over the head of Bud Sasser.
Mauk, declared a Heisman Award "dark horse" on the pages of Sports Illustrated's college football preview earlier in the week, finished the day 8 for 20 with 103 yards.
"I just have a very high expectation level for him, and I think he needs to play better," coach Gary Pinkel said.
The redshirt sophomore, who made four starts last season in the team's run to the Southeastern Conference championship game, thinks the same.
"I know the expectations are through the roof," Mauk said, "and I want that because, personally, I set my goals high."
He strung together a strong finish to the scrimmage during two final 2-minute drills. He went back to the players he had missed before: Sasser for 17 yards, White for 21, Hunt for 15.
"At times, like at the end, you watch us execute and it's like, 'Holy cow, it's like bam-bam-bam right down the field,'" Henson said.
Against a defense that was missing three starters to injury and that was nonetheless dominant initially, the offense's late surge made it the winning group.
Mauk said his own teammates' defense would be "one of the best that we play all year." Flushed out of the pocket by swarming teammates earlier in the scrimmage, Mauk scrambled and had the ball swatted from his hand by tackle Harold Brantley. In another instance where he faced oncoming pressure, Mauk botched a pitch to Hansbrough on a speed option.
Not everything went well. But Mauk kept cool.
"I take pride in doing that," he said. "You can criticize, you can do whatever you want to me. It's not going to matter. I think I can do a good job of really calming people down and talking to different people."
Two weeks before the season opener, Henson commended his young quarterback's poise.
"He's probably a lot better than me; I kind of start getting frustrated," said Henson, smiling. "I think Maty does a good job of keeping everybody going, staying positive. That's something that we preach to our guys—things aren’t always gonna go well. So you have two choices: you can kind of implode or you can stay positive and keep fighting, keep working, and maybe come back like we did today.
"That," he added, "should be a great lesson for our offense."
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.