COLUMBIA, Missouri — Maty Mauk remembers the advice Henry Josey gave him on the sideline last year at Georgia: "Just go out there and be you, kid."
Then a freshman with only three career passing attempts at Missouri, Mauk came off the bench to lead two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and preserve a 41-26 win in relief of injured starter James Franklin.
"I knew they had the confidence in me," Mauk said. "And for me to just go out there and have a chance, that's all I needed."
As Mauk prepares to face the 13th-ranked Bulldogs again, he is now a household name known for his eagerness to throw downfield and to scamper out of pockets and away from defenders. The stakes this season are just as high — a win would give No. 23 Missouri a 2-0 Southeastern Conference record and an early lead in the East Division.
"He's played in so many games and won big games, you kind of look at him likes he's an older guy, not a sophomore," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. "You look at where the guy was and where he's come from, he's just improved tremendously."
Mauk knew at an early age the role football would take in his life. He emulated his older brother, Ben, who quarterbacked for Cincinnati and Wake Forest, and played in high school for his father, Mike. Having two mentors under his own roof helped Mauk develop confidence in his own skills, sometimes to a fault. He is tied for second in the SEC with 14 passing touchdowns, but he has also thrown four interceptions.
Just as important, though, he refuses to believe the Tigers (4-1, 1-0 SEC) are out of any game no matter the circumstances. Quarterbacks coach Andy Hill cited Mauk's resiliency in helping the team overcome a 13-point deficit in the final seven minutes at South Carolina on Sept. 27.
"If you look at our league, everything's coming down to the last couple drives," Hill said. "And so that's when you've really got to focus on finishing strong."
Standing around six feet tall, Mauk says he has worked on improving his leadership this year by trying to display a consistent demeanor. This past spring, when he gained full control of Missouri's offense following Franklin's graduation, he needed some reminders that others were looking up to him.
"When you first get to know Maty, he's a little quieter," center Evan Boehm said. "He's a little hesitant to say stuff. But once you get to know Maty, he's bouncing off the walls. He'll talk and he won't shut up. That's just how Maty is."
As he enters his 10th career start, Mauk feels the speed of college football is slowing down for him and that he is doing a better job of reading defenses. Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel concurred, calling the quarterback a student of the game.
Mauk will benefit against Georgia (4-1, 2-1) from the expected return of senior receivers Jimmie Hunt (knee) and Darius White (groin), who both sat out against the Gamecocks when Mauk completed 12 of 34 passes for 132 yards. The trio practiced together through the summer, establishing a rhythm Mauk couldn't duplicate with reserves Wesley Leftwich and Gavin Otte.
Mauk follows former Missouri quarterbacks Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert and Franklin as a full-time starter in his sophomore season. He doesn't measure himself against them, though, saying he takes Josey's advice to heart.
"You get better as you play," Henson said. "The only way to really get better once you get in that role is to go out and play and make mistakes and learn from them, to come out and fix them the next time."
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