Missouri quarterback Drew Lock wasn’t supposed to play as much as he did a year ago.
But with his predecessor at the position, Maty Mauk, getting into trouble with the program, Lock was placed in the spotlight as a true freshman and underwent plenty of growing pains in the process.
His third career start came on the road against Georgia, which saw the former four-star prospect struggle quite a bit. Lock completed only 11 of 26 passes for 143 yards and did not toss a touchdown in a 9-6 loss to the Bulldogs. Most of Lock’s games as a freshmen were rough as he only threw for over 200 yards once.
With a year under his belt, and with new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel guiding him, Lock has shown growth in Missouri’s first two games, which has the Missouri coaching staff enthused and Georgia wondering how to slow him down.
"He’s very talented, first and foremost," Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. "He’s got great touch, great arm strength. He throws the ball to all parts of the field. He forces you to defend the whole width of the field – 53 yards wide. That’s really tough, especially with the wideouts and the skill sets they got."
Lock was forced to throw the ball a lot in Missouri’s season opener against West Virginia, which ended in a 26-11 loss. While Lock only completed 45.1 percent of his passes, he did total 280 yards and a touchdown without any interceptions.
A week ago, in a tune-up against Eastern Michigan, Lock had the best game of his career as he went 24-of-37 passing for 450 yards and five touchdowns. Lock has taken to Heupel’s attack, which differs in Missouri’s previous scheme in that it uses a lot more of the football field to spread defenders out.
In addition, Missouri’s offensive line has done a good job in protecting Lock as it’s only surrendered one sack in two games.
"There’s a lot of moving parts that make that work," Missouri head coach Barry Odom said. "Some of it is getting rid of the ball quick. Some of it is the offensive line protecting and working together. Some of it is the rock concept on giving yourself a chance. With that, also knowing what we got coming into town on Saturday, the athletic ability they have and the structure they have in playing defensive football. We’ve got to be on point in all areas."
Georgia’s secondary will obviously be in for a challenge, considering Missouri’s primary objective will be to hit big plays in the passing game.
In two games, the Tigers have called 94 pass plays and 84 run plays. But Missouri is only averaging 4.1 yards per rush compared to 8.2 yards per passing attempt.
In both of its games, Missouri has had two receivers total over 100 yards. Against West Virginia, they were J’Mon Moore (104) and Chris Black (102). The following week against Eastern Michigan, it was Ray Wingo (125) and Johnathon Johnson (115) taking their turn with big plays in the air attack.
"I’ve seen a great quarterback (on film)," Georgia safety Quincy Mauger said. "Great weapons around him. We have to be very disciplined from the front to the back end. Any slip-ups could be very detrimental. That starts all in the film room."
Lock began his college career earlier than expected and underwent the difficulties a lot of true freshman quarterbacks go through in the SEC. His inexperience hurt the Tigers last season against Georgia, considering Missouri lost despite its defense holding Georgia to only nine points.
With a full offseason under his belt, Lock will get a chance to avenge last year’s game against the Bulldogs.
"The quarterback has a great range," Mauger said. "We have to be very disciplined as far as who we’re reading and trying to affect the quarterback as much as we can."