Missouri 48, Kentucky 17: There is no QB controversy, but Tigers have two great options

The Trib: Mauk aces final exam as Missouri starter
KC Star: QB James Franklin returns in limited capacity for MU
Post-Dispatch: Franklin shakes off rust, will start Mizzou's next game
Post-Dispatch: MU surviving rare QB problem under Pinkel
Mizzou Network: POST-GAME INTERVIEW: Maty Mauk after throwing 5 TD's vs UK

What's funny is, it's Maty Mauk's fault the whole "Yeah, but ... injuries" meme has continued. If Mauk had struggled like other backups, people wouldn't still be trying to pin a good portion of Missouri's 9-1 start on opponent injuries (like color commentator Matt Stinchcomb did yesterday). Instead, he steered the ship well enough that people could, with a straight face, talk about how Missouri lucked out by facing backup quarterbacks (with their own backup quarterback).

I was a little bit premature last Sunday, taking stock on Mauk's run as a starter and assuming to some degree that James Franklin would be back against Kentucky. But as Missouri enters a bye week, with Franklin healthy enough to have at least taken a few snaps (handing the ball off every time) late in the game, we are basically all now assuming that Mauk's run as a starter in 2013, barring another injury, is done.

So how did he do?

Opponent Starter Comp Att Pct Yards Yds/Comp TD INT Sacks Net Yards Yards/Att. Rushes Yards
Murray State Franklin 26 38 68% 318 12.2 3 0 1 312 8.0 5 50
Toledo Franklin 16 25 64% 212 13.3 1 1 2 200 7.4 15 89
at Indiana Franklin 32 47 68% 343 10.7 2 2 3 326 6.5 10 78
Arkansas State Franklin 21 30 70% 256 12.2 3 0 1 253 8.2 4 36
at Vanderbilt Franklin 19 28 68% 278 14.6 4 0 2 269 9.0 10 72
at Georgia Franklin 18 27 67% 170 9.4 1 0 4 139 4.5 8 43
Florida Mauk 18 36 50% 295 16.4 1 1 0 295 8.2 6 15
South Carolina Mauk 10 25 40% 249 24.9 1 1 2 238 8.8 8 23
Tennessee Mauk 12 25 48% 163 13.6 3 0 0 163 6.5 13 114
at Kentucky Mauk 17 28 61% 203 11.9 5 0 0 203 7.3 2 24
Franklin (all) 132 195 68% 1,577 11.9 14 3 13 1,499 7.2 52 368
Mauk (all) 57 114 50% 910 16.0 10 2 2 899 7.8 29 176

So basically, Mauk averaged more yards per pass attempt with fewer sacks but a much lower completion rate, and about as many rushes per start, he averaged one fewer yard per carry. And he did this without the benefit of cupcakes. Hell, if we look only at BCS opponents, Franklin was only averaging 6.6 yards per pass attempt, 85 percent of Mauk's average.

Mauk did well, in other words.

So how big a deal is Mauk's completion percentage? He averaged 4.1 more yards per completion than Franklin did, but he completed only half of his passes. And besides, if you take out one single pass -- the 97-yard touchdown to L'Damian Washington -- Mauk's per-attempt average sinks to 7.0. That's still solid considering the competition, but not nearly as solid.

The effect of efficiency is noticeable when it comes to three-and-outs. As I discussed in my book -- currently $12.59 at Amazon! -- three-and-outs are deadly. They aren't as bad as turnovers, but you better not commit more than about three per game. With Franklin at the helm, Missouri went three-and-out 14 percent of the time; with Mauk, it was 22 percent of the time. And even as Franklin was producing pretty mediocre passing averages in his three games versus BCS competition, he was moving the chains: Mizzou went three-and-out just three times in 35 possessions (9%) versus Indiana, Vandy, and Georgia.

It's easy to get distracted by Mauk's five touchdown passes against Kentucky, but touchdowns are like RBIs in baseball -- they're really not a very accurate measure of quality. Mauk still averaged a decent 7.3 yards per pass attempt overall yesterday, but the "Does Missouri have a QB controversy??" talk at the end of the game yesterday, based on the TDs, was silly.

Now, the controversy talk doesn't matter because Gary Pinkel very quickly said that James Franklin is the starter when he's healthy. These numbers show that you can certainly make a case for Mauk overall, but that Mauk's efficiency really is a bit worrisome. And as long as James Franklin is throwing confident passes with that shoulder, he is, at worst, an equal to Mauk. Healthy Franklin is a bit more of a run threat (a designed run threat, that is), and he makes up for a general lack of explosiveness with lovely efficiency. Missouri is in good hands either way, but as long as Franklin is ready to go, handing the reins back to QB No. 1, with a profoundly competent backup, is a lovely option. Meanwhile, we already have reason to be pretty excited about the Mauk Era, coming Spring 2014 (unless, you know, Eddie Printz completes 90 percent of his passes in every scrimmage, ahem).

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