UK Football

Stopping Missouri starts with containing QB Maty Mauk

Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk (7) is brought down by Kentucky linebacker Josh Forrest (45). The University of Missouri hosted the University of Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 01, 2014 at Faurot Field in Columbia. Photo by Derek Poore
Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk (7) is brought down by Kentucky linebacker Josh Forrest (45). The University of Missouri hosted the University of Kentucky, Saturday, Nov. 01, 2014 at Faurot Field in Columbia. Photo by Derek Poore Herald-Leader

The message this week for the Kentucky defense: Stay in your lane.

Your rush lane, that is.

The Cats have had more than their fair share of difficulty containing mobile quarterbacks. And not just on designed draw plays. Many times it's been a quarterback finding a gap and scrambling for a first down (and more).

UK's defense did well holding Florida running backs mostly in check only to get burned by a not necessarily mobile quarterback in Will Grier, who had 12 carries for 61 yards in the Gators' win at Commonwealth Stadium last week.

"With these athletic quarterbacks, you gotta be smart in your rush lanes, make sure that you're very conscious of where he is," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said Wednesday, repeating what he's been saying over and over to his defense every day this week.

"If he pulls it down and tries to take off within your rush lane, then you gotta tackle him."

There is plenty of game tape this season and last of mobile quarterbacks slicing through the Kentucky defense: clutch scrambles by Mississippi State's Dak Prescott or Tennessee's Josh Dobbs.

This season there was Grier and Jalen Nixon of Louisiana-Lafayette, whose 23-yard touchdown run tied the game late in the fourth quarter.

This week against No. 25 Missouri (3-0, 0-0 Southeastern Conference), the Cats will reacquaint themselves with Maty Mauk. The Tigers quarterback torched the UK defense last season with 14 rushes for 96 yards (before 21 yards worth of sacks), including one for 32 yards.

"He's always a guy from a defensive point of view that's a pain in the butt" for how he can make plays, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said of the junior, who has run 16 times for 99 yards against the Cats in the past two games.

"He's got a great feel for the pocket," Stoops said. "He really is a big part of why they've won so many games. He's a player who finds ways to move the ball and create space in the pocket."

The goal for the Kentucky defense will be to keep him in the pocket. Eliot was happy that the Florida game is fresh in his group's mind. There were more than a few teachable moments.

"We showed players how we could execute that better and how we could keep him in the pocket a little bit better," Eliot said.

It has been a major focus of Kentucky's defensive preparation this week, defenders said.

"Just containing him," linebacker Ryan Flannigan said of Mauk. "He likes to run a lot. Just trying to contain him. Like Coach said, if we do our job we'll be able to shut anything down."

Grier was good preparation for what the Cats will face this week.

"Last week we gave up a lot of scramble yards, so it's going to be something we focus on," junior Jason Hatcher said. "Obviously, (Mauk's) a little better than last week's guy, but we have to really focus on our rush lanes and stuff like that."

The coaches have been stressing playing under control, staying with your assignment. When you're rushing the passer, make sure he's not rushing past you.

"I may be able to get out of my lane, beat the offensive lineman, then get back in it," Eliot described of a blitzer's mindset. "But against this guy, you may not be able to. You may rush, get out of your lane, and then whoosh, he's gone."

But perhaps the most important thing Kentucky's players learned from facing Grier last week was to get the quarterback down when you have that chance.

Twice last week, a UK defender seemingly had the Florida quarterback down behind the line of scrimmage only to have him slip away and go off for double-digit yardage.

"When we have him dead (to) right, get him down," Eliot stressed. "That was part of our problems and we were able to point it out to them and practice it, and hopefully that helps us into this game."

Injury update

Stoops said that defensive tackle Regie Meant is doubtful for Saturday.

The sophomore injured his shoulder in the first half against Florida. The 14-game starter has 11 tackles, including one for loss and a sack, in the first three games this season.

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