URBANA — Jabali Maatuka hears his coach’s words in his head after every offensive snap.
Calm down. Stay the pace. Play your game.
The Maroons senior quarterback took those words to heart in steadying his game Friday night, helping Central to a 32-6 victory over Urbana at McKinley Field with trust in the coaches and teammates that surrounded him.
“My line helps me out a lot,” said Maatuka, who rushed for two touchdowns under center in the Big 12 Conference win. “They give me room to run. And then throwing the ball it just comes down to what Coach (Tim Turner) always tells me. ... I’ve been doing this for four years, just play my game.”
Maatuka being effective on his feet, as well as pass-catching rusher Tarell Evans, allowed the Maroons (2-2, 2-1 Big 12) to erase some sloppy mistakes on both sides of the ball, including a number of fumbles that gave the Tigers (0-4, 0-3) ample opportunities.
Turner harped on the team “not valuing the football” in the postgame huddle, as players gathered on the turf around the Wright Street Trophy. But the second-year coach said walking away with a win helps make those mistakes a little easier to correct in the future.
“Any time you can still teach after a win, it’s a good thing,” Turner said. “But nobody should be leaving here feeling like superstars.”
Maatuka would be the first to earn that distinction after running in a pair of two-point conversions against the Tigers.
“When we do that,” Maatuka said, “we’re just punching them in the mouth, saying we’re bigger, faster and stronger than them. And they can’t do nothing about it.”
The Tigers saw the wind sucked from their sails when starting quarterback Elijah Rodgers — who hit Jazarieon Barber for a 15-yard touchdown pass on Urbana’s lone score — went down with an injury during the third quarter. He limped off the field with an apparent left leg injury and did not return.
“When I think about the game overall, I felt like we shot all of our bullets and we ran out of bullets in the fourth quarter,” Tigers coach Ordell Walker said. “They just had a little bit more than we did. ... And (Rodgers) getting hurt changes what we can do.”