COLUMBIA, Missouri — Maty Mauk has worked on stepping up in the pocket and becoming more consistent with his footwork during the past five weeks of Missouri's spring practices.
"You didn't see me just catching and bailing out like usual," Missouri quarterback Mauk said after the team's Black and Gold game on Saturday.
Mauk led the only touchdown drive, an 8-play, 63-yarder, that ended the first half. He found J'Mon Moore on a fade route for a 3-yard score.
Mauk, who is 14-4 as a starter, finished 9 of 14 for 68 yards and added six carries for 40 yards. He was pulled along with the rest of the first-team offense and defense at halftime after outscoring the second team 10-0.
Andrew Baggett kicked a 36-yard field goal to account for the remaining points.
"I think we've got several talented guys," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. "I think we're just inexperienced. We're just inconsistent right now. And that will come with reps and experience."
The third and fourth teams squared off against the second team in the closing half, outscoring them 3-0 on a 25-yard field goal by Nick Coffman with 46 seconds remaining in the game.
Moore finished with three catches for 11 yards. With Missouri losing its top three receivers for the second consecutive season, the sophomore thinks he can become Mauk's go-to target.
"Definitely," he said. "I look forward to taking that role. I've got a long summer ahead of me and I've got to work hard."
"Anytime you've got a batch of young guys, there's growing pains," coach Gary Pinkel said. "You'd like everything to come out perfect. But it doesn't work out that way. So we anticipate that it's not going to be easy."
Missouri can lean on its experience in the middle of the field as it chases its third consecutive SEC Eastern Division title. In addition to Mauk, the Tigers return Russell Hansbrough, who ran 1,084 yards last season. He rushed six times for 36 yards Saturday.
The Tigers also return several veterans on their offensive line, led by center Evan Boehm who's started all 40 games since arriving in 2012. The team projects seniors with starting experience will line up additionally at left tackle, left guard and right guard.
That doesn't mean there won't be any new experiences for them, though. Boehm recalled the advice he received during the school's Pro Day last month from Kevin Morse, whose son Mitch exhausted his eligibility at left tackle in January.
"He basically just told me, 'Don't blink because it's going to be gone,'" Boehm said. "'It's going to be over as soon as you know it.' And it just made me open my eyes and realize, man, everything is coming to an end."