By Brandon Kiley, KBIA Sport
Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk awaited a snap on third-and-long at the South Dakota State 29-yard line. The redshirt sophomore felt the pass rush coming from his blindside so he stepped up into the pocket, scrambled to his right and let the ball fly. The pass found senior Missouri wide receiver Bud Sasser in the corner of the end zone.
This was the first — and only — third down conversion for the Tiger offense in the second half of their 38-18 victory over the Jackrabbits on Saturday at Faurot Field.
“We’re working very hard at it,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “And, ultimately, that has to get better if we want to be a better offense. You have to stay on the field. And you have to convert third downs to do it.”
The Missouri offense was on the field for a total of six plays in the third quarter on Saturday. Marcus Murphy’s kick return touchdown could be one explanation for the lack of possession in the third quarter. The Tigers offense converting just 3 of 11 third downs on Saturday is another.
“We had a few third-and-shorts that we didn’t convert because we didn’t execute well,” Sasser said.
Outside of the aforementioned touchdown pass from Mauk to Sasser, Missouri’s quarterback was 1 of 5 for negative three yards when throwing on third down.
Missouri converted 27 percent of its third down situations on Saturday, a steep decline from the 43.8 percent conversion rate the team boasted throughout the 2013 season.
Third down performance is a major reason why the Tigers were able to flaunt a 12-2 record at the end of last season. Missouri took the victory on Saturday despite it.
Still, Mauk says the problem is fixable and the Tigers offense is putting in the work to turn it around.
“There are a lot of little things that we can fix,” Mauk said. “It’s just about making sure we are all on the same page… We’ve already moved on from it. We know what we have to work on and we’re going to get ready to play this week.”
Mauk and company’s first chance to improve will come Saturday, Sept. 6 vs. the Toledo Rockets in Toledo, Ohio. The game is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Central time.