Mauk's off field issues kept him from on field glory
COLUMBIA- Brandon Kiley, host of The Sports Wire on KTGR, holds his hand up above his head.
"He was at the top," Kiley said. "After he got to the top it seemed to be a steady decline and now he's at rock bottom."
The man now at rock bottom is Maty Mauk, a quarterback who was in line to be the next MU football star. Even before coming to Columbia, Mauk had set national high school records at Kenton High School in Kenton, Ohio. Mauk brought those records and high expectations to MU in the fall of 2012.
"The immediate response was, this is going to be Chase Daniel version 2.0," Gabe DeArmond, publisher of PowerMizzou.com said. "He was an undersized kid, so that limited his recruiting the same as Chase."
"They wanted him to be the next Chase Daniel," David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune said.
Mauk was redshirted during the 2012 season, but got playing time the following season as a backup. The Tigers started the season 5-0 and were ranked in the top 25 heading into a pivotal matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs. The Tigers won the game, but starting quarterback James Franklin injured his shoulder and would be out indefinitely. It was up to Mauk to keep Missouri's dream season alive.
"You saw it all coming together," Kiley said. "If Mauk can just kind of keep this thing afloat, we could really make some damage here."
"I think there was definitely some thought that it's too bad that this season that we thought was going to one thing might not quite be," DeArmond said.
Mauk threw for 295 yards and accounted for two total touchdowns in a 36-17 victory over the Florida Gators in his first career start. Despite losing the following week to South Carolina, Mauk kept the Tigers at the top of the SEC East. He even provided some glimpses of future stardom, highlighted by a five-touchdown day at Kentucky. Mauk threw four of those scores to Dorial Green-Beckham, a young receiver who would be a star in his own right.
"At that point everybody had to be thinking, this team has so much potential once DGB really becomes what we believe he is going to be and when Maty Mauk really does evolve into this player that we expect to be as a junior and then again as a senior," Kiley said. "You saw some people saying this is exciting, this is different, this is a fresh outlook for Mizzou football."
"This was probably going to James Franklin's team for the rest 2013, but after that Maty and Dorial were kind of the vanguard of the new Missouri for the next couple years," Morrison said.
Mauk returned to his backup role at the end of the season, but continued to receive playing time. The redshirt freshman delivered a scoring drive in the Cotton Bowl to helping Missouri's struggling offense. Mauk had runs of 35 and 34 yards before throwing a perfect pass to Marcus Lucas for the touchdown. The expectations of Mauk continued to rise.
"Coming out of that game, most fans thought they're gonna be better next year because they're going to be better at quarterback," DeArmond said.
"At that point you were saying to yourself, alright this is happening," Kiley said. "Maty Mauk is going to be a really good player for Missouri and if he becomes what I think he can be, this is going to be really fun to watch in 2014."
Mauk had problems off the field before he appeared on the field. The quarterback was arrested in late August 2012 and charged with four misdemeanors after he operated a motor scooter in a reckless manner.
"If there was a moment in time where we should've said, okay this guy might be a little different, that was the moment," Kiley said.
Mauk and the Tigers went into the 2014 season looking to repeat as SEC East champions. After an early loss to Indiana, the Tigers were thumped at home 34-0 by Georgia in a game where Mauk threw four interceptions and couldn't even cross 100 yards. Missouri seemed to be out of the division race.
"I don't think anybody at that point thought they would be winning the SEC East," Morrison said. "I think some people were even wondering if they'd go to a bowl."
"I think most people thought it was over," Kiley said. "If you told me after that game that Mizzou was going to win the SEC East I would've called you a liar."
"Coming out of that game I think it was, let's just focus on winning some games," DeArmond said. "This kid's only a sophomore, but when he's a junior and senior we're really going to see it."
The Tigers went on to win five straight games, setting them up to clinch the division with a victory over Arkansas in the final game. Mauk threw for 265 yards and one touchdown as Missouri scored the final 15 points to defeat Arkansas 21-14 and return to the SEC championship game.
"Florida was a big game for Maty as far as proving himself, but the stakes were the highest in that Arkansas game," Morrison said.
"What I think everybody remembers from that game is Henry Josey," DeArmond said. "But it was very much who Maty was. He never seemed to be the reason they won, but they always won."
After falling to Alabama in the championship game, Mauk led the Tigers to a 33-17 victory over Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl. Despite struggling for much of the season, the expecation was that Mauk would once again be the starter in 2015.
"People obviously focus on the end result and did throughout Maty's career," DeArmond said. "There were so many games where you said, well he really wasn't very good but they won so I guess you can't make a change."
"We did something like the 20 most important players heading into the 2015 season and Maty Mauk was number one on that list and it wasn't even close," Kiley said. "We had no idea what to expect from Mauk.
Mauk appeared in four games in 2015 and the off-field struggles came to the front. He was suspended indefinitely from the team on Sept. 29 for a violation of team policies, forcing him to miss the South Carolina game. After that game, coach Gary Pinkel announced the suspension would continue for the rest of the season. It turned out Mauk would never see the field at Missouri again.
"After that suspension happened, yeah I thought I'd seen him on the field for the last time," DeArmond said. "Not because of anything he had done specifically, but because I know how Gary Pinkel treats quarterbacks and he always had expected more from guys at that position."
"Once you flip that switch, suspend Maty Mauk and start your true freshman, then you can't just unflip it and say Maty Mauk is back and it's his job again," Morrison said.
"After the first suspension, I figured he would play again," Kiley said. "It was when he got suspended, was reinstated and then was suspended again two or three days later, that's when I said, okay it's over."
Mauk appeared in 27 games at Missouri and was the primary starter in 22. He won 77 percent of those 22 games. By comparison, Chase Daniel appeared in 51 games at Missouri and was the primary starter in 41. Daniel won 73 percent of those 41 games. Both quarterbacks were part of two division titles and each two bowl victories.
On the field, Daniel was superior to Mauk in the passing game. The two-time Heisman finalist completed more passes, threw for more yards per game and touchdowns per game. Mauk has the slight edge in the run game, averaging more yards per carry and per game. Unfortunately for Mauk, he wasn't able to finish four full seasons at Missouri. Even though he went 17-5 as a starter, Mauk's career is rarely summed up by the word "winner".
"I would say he was inconsistent," Morrison said. "The team was very successful under his watch and he had moments of brilliance, but he had games where he was a non-factor and even a detriment to the offense."
"Chaos," DeArmond said. "From the highest of highs playing in an SEC title game to a video that, as long as professional athletes and drug use have been linked, we've never seen before."
"Turbulent has to be the word," Kiley said. "From day one, from moment one to the very end, it was ups and it was downs and it was exciting and then it was disappointing and then all of sudden, in the end, you feel saddened."