New Missouri QB settling in, Arizona St next
Thursday, September 8, 2011
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — It’s all too easy to pin Missouri’s offensive woes on the new kid at quarterback.
Sophomore James Franklin knows he must get more comfortable Friday night at Arizona State. More stability on an injury-riddled offensive line would ease the transition and allow Franklin time to produce a few more big plays.
“I think I did poorly,” Franklin said. “Not as good as we should have done, not as good as I should have done.”
The point total in the 21st-ranked Tigers’ 17-6 victory over Miami of Ohio was the school’s lowest for an opener since a 20-13 loss to Bowling Green in 2001, coach Gary Pinkel’s first season.
There was plenty to criticize after Missouri got pushed hard by the Mid-American champions. Pinkel cited multiple breakdowns. Too many penalties, too, on both sides of the ball.
“It was just kind of all over the place,” Pinkel said. “Everybody’s going to blame the quarterback because most people don’t know what’s going on.”
The line was down two starters for the opener, and that’ll probably again be the case in Week 2 against the Sun Devils (1-0).
Center Travis Ruth was sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury that might keep him out this week. Tackle Elvis Fisher, a four-year starter, was lost for the season with a knee injury early in fall camp.
“The biggest thing is the whole left side is new and our center is new,” left tackle Justin Britt said. “There’s a lot of things we could have done better.”
Guard Jake Meiners thought the line play was just OK.
“Probably our ‘B’ game, I would say,” Meiners said. “This coming week we’ve really got to step it up and get in sync.”
Three players were at different positions. Guard Jayson Palmgren probably had the toughest transition, making his first game-day snaps at center. Some of them were off-target.
“Did we have a few problems? Yeah,” Pinkel said. “We anticipated that a little bit. It’s not going to be perfect and it’ll be better this week.”
Missouri averaged 43 points over a three-year span from 2007-09 in its annual opener against Illinois in St. Louis, and scored 20 points in the second half of last year’s 23-13 victory. Punter Trey Barrow was an asset last week with seven punts for a 44.7-yard average and three downed inside the 20, a year after the Tigers had to punt only once.
“He did pretty good, didn’t he?” Pinkel said. “Talk about a guy that really has matured since last spring.”
Franklin was 17 for 26 for only 129 yards with one touchdown and also ran for a score, overcoming an interception that directly led to Miami of Ohio’s lone touchdown. Most of his throws were to the flanks for short gains, although he was the leading rusher with 72 yards on 14 carries.
Franklin said he noticed even during the game when he was on the sideline that he’d been a “little jittery” with his feet and was holding the ball too low.
“It’s a team sport and at quarterback a lot of it starts with leading,” Franklin said. “I’ve got to do a better job of leading the team and getting them the ball when they’re open.”
Pinkel said Franklin wouldn’t run nearly as much as Brad Smith, who starred on the coach’s first Missouri teams and is with the Buffalo Bills.
“James is a thrower that has good mobility, good feet, good running instincts,” Pinkel said. “We just want to take advantage of that.”
Franklin’s touchdown pass to Marcus Lucas was one of the few downfield throws in the opener. Lucas was the third or fourth option on that play, and Franklin said he had more safe throws because it was his first read.
“We called a bunch downfield and it was just a matter of me seeing it, and reacting to it,” Franklin said.
The three-man tandem at tailback wasn’t that effective, either, with Franklin the leading rusher with 72 yards on 14 carries. It’s down to two now, De’Vion Moore and Henry Josey, after Kendial Lawrence broke a non-weight-bearing bone in his leg. Lawrence started the opener after an impressive camp, but gained only 10 yards on nine carries before leaving with an injury that could sideline him for a month.