MU’s Franklin doesn’t allow in-game setbacks to bother him

Missouri quarterback James Franklin runs during Saturday night’s game in Bloomington, Ind.

Missouri quarterback James Franklin runs during Saturday night’s game in Bloomington, Ind. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA — There was a time Missouri quarterback James Franklin would have been bothered after throwing a pair of costly interceptions.

Those days appear to be in the rearview mirror.

In Saturday’s 45-28 victory against Indiana, Franklin bounced back from a pair of early interceptions that ended promising Missouri drives.

The senior kept his poise, eventually setting a new career passing yardage mark with 343 yards.

“I think my mentality is a little bit better, and I’m not focusing on the negatives as much,” Franklin said. “When I threw the two picks, I wasn’t even upset about them. ... It wasn’t like I was upset about the picks. I think that was a big improvement from last year. I didn’t let it affect the rest of my play.”

Franklin has been solid in Missouri’s first three games after last year’s adversity-filled season that included numerous injuries and struggles when he was on the field.

He pointed to the adversity as one reason he has been able to shake off negative plays so far this season. That included his play on the field and things people said about him off the field.

“That really helped me get a stronger mentality,” Franklin said. “I don’t let things like that affect me,” Franklin said.

His coaches have noticed a different demeanor as well.

“He’s very, very focused and determined,” Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel said. “He’s a lot different guy right now than he was.”

Through three games Franklin has put up numbers reminiscent of his sophomore season when he accounted for 36 touchdowns, the third-most in school history.

So far this season he is averaging 291 passing yards per game and has completed 67 percent of his passes to go along with six touchdowns.

Ironically, even though the coaching staff wants him to be a smarter runner, he leads the team with 36 carries while rushing for 182 yards.

“His mind wasn’t totally there,” receiver Marcus Lucas said of Franklin’s season last year. “He was just worrying about injuries and things like that ... Now I feel like he’s just healthy and he’s just really relaxed and playing the game to the best of his ability.”

Missouri hosts Arkansas State on Saturday night, but the real test for Franklin and the Tigers (3-0) figures to be Oct. 5 at Vanderbilt when they open Southeastern Conference play. But for now, Franklin has been able to focus on his positive start to the season while putting the negatives behind him.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Pinkel said. “I know it surprises the people out there.”

Notes: Pinkel said he thinks left guard Max Copeland will be back for Saturday’s game against Arkansas State, but isn’t 100 percent sure. He has been slowed by an ankle sprain he suffered in the Sept. 8 game against Toledo and did not play Saturday against Indiana. Anthony Gatti and Brad McNulty split reps at left guard. ... Pinkel said he intended to put quarterback Maty Mauk into Saturday’s game at Indiana, but forgot in the heat of the game after Indiana rallied from an early 14-point deficit. Pinkel said he plans for him to see time against Arkansas State. Mauk usually plays on the first drive of the second quarter. ... Kony Ealy was named the SEC defensive lineman of the week. He had a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the second quarter against Indiana. Missouri defensive end Markus Golden was honored with the same award two weeks ago. ... The game against Vanderbilt will kick off at 6:30 p.m. and will air on Comcast Sports South.

III

Aldon Smith, who was drafted seventh out of Missouri by the 49ers in 2011, was arrested Friday on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. Pinkel said he texted Smith on Monday and added he never had any trouble with Smith when he was at Missouri. Smith will sit out indefinitely while he enters rehab.

“What can happen is it can be turned into a real positive,” Pinkel said. “I think that’s the approach they are going to take.”

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