September 09, 2014

Maty Mauk seemingly has made a smooth transition to being Missouri's full-time starter, but coach Gary Pinkel also has stressed there's a learning curve his quarterback will have to embrace as the season moves along.

That's especially true for whoever happens to be under center for Central Florida, which will start its second quarterback in as many games on Saturday when it visits the 20th-ranked Tigers.

Mauk started four games as a redshirt freshman in the middle of Missouri's 12-2 campaign last season in place of injuried senior James Franklin, throwing for 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in those contests.

He's the unquestioned starter this season and threw three touchdowns in a season-opening 38-18 win over South Dakota State on Aug. 30 before going 21 of 32 for 325 yards and five TDs in last week's 49-24 victory at Toledo.

Mauk threw a pair of interceptions, though, while showing that he's still a bit inexperienced.

''Maty really played well,'' Pinkel said. ''He's going to learn a lot from this game. It's only his sixth start. There's a lot of little things he needs to do better."

Mauk was named the SEC player of the week, and drew praise from his coach for bouncing back from his mistakes.

''He's a very poised guy,'' Pinkel said. ''Plus he's a great competitor and that's what great quarterbacks are made of. He's only going to get better and better with more experience.''

While Missouri appears to be in good hands with Mauk, the Knights' situation at quarterback is a bit murky.

Justin Holman backed up Blake Bortles as a freshman as Bortles guided UCF to a 12-1 record and Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor. Bortles left for the NFL and Holman seemed to have a firm grasp on the job before losing it to redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo prior to the season opener.

DiNovo struggled in the first half against Penn State on Aug. 30 in Dublin, and Holman took over and went 9 of 14 for 204 yards and a touchdown. He nearly led the Knights to a comeback victory before they fell 26-24 on a field goal as time expired.

Central Florida had a bye last weekend, and coach George O'Leary announced Friday that Holman will start against Missouri. That doesn't mean it's a permanent move, though.

''I think game lights go on and everybody reacts different. But Holman will get the nod,'' O'Leary said. "We'll see if he can continue doing what he did.''

Though Holman is no Bortles just yet, Pinkel believes his Tigers will have their work cut out for them. The Knights are 4-2 in their last six against the Power 5 conferences and have won their last two against Top 25 foes.

"They played a very, very close game against Penn State," Pinkel said. "So it'll be a challenge to play our best football game, and we're preparing to do that.

"(UCF) knows how to win. Coach O'Leary has done a great job with that program. You've certainly got to give him a lot of credit."

O'Leary has made it a point to schedule quality opponents, and a trip to Missouri will be another tough test for a program coming off its most successful season.

"I've always tried to schedule a great nonconference schedule if we can," O'Leary said. "I've always thought you get better as a football team because of that. We're always going to try and do that and play up if we can."

The Knights can't just hone in on one of Mauk's targets Saturday. Four different receivers caught touchdown passes against Toledo, with Jimmie Hunt snagging two.

Bud Sasser finished with five catches for 121 yards and a score, while Darius White and Marcus Murphy also got into the end zone.

"I still think it's just a little preview of what we can do," Sasser said. "I think that we have a lot more in our tanks and I can't wait for (Saturday) where we can just put it all out there."

UCF led Missouri by three at halftime in the last meeting Sept. 29, 2012, in Orlando, but the Tigers rallied for a 21-16 victory.

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