NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - James Franklin threw for four touchdowns and Missouri squashed any doubts about its early season schedule with a 51-28 victory at Vanderbilt Saturday.
The Tigers moved to 5-0 and opened conference play without missing a beat in the program's first trip to Nashville as a member of the SEC. Vanderbilt, which won the last year's matchup 19-15 in Columbia, slipped to 0-3 in conference play and 3-3 overall.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who opened a season 5-0 for the fifth time in 13 seasons, credited his veteran quarterback for guiding the aggressive Tiger offense yet again.
"James has been around a little bit. If he had stayed healthy last year, he would have played like this," Pinkel said. "This doesn't surprise me. I loved him last year. I'm very proud of him ... He is playing with some of the best quarterbacks, I think it's fair to say that."
Franklin guided Missouri on scoring drives on the first six Tiger possessions, which resulted in three touchdowns and three field goals. Missouri out-gained the Commodores 285-97 in the first half in taking a 30-7 lead.
Franklin finished 19-for-28 for 278 yards passing and added another 63 yards on the ground.
"He is a great quarterback. He is an exceptional athlete," Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. "(We) couldn't pressure the quarterback ... You have to frustrate him before he goes through his progressions, and we weren't able to do that."
Even when Vanderbilt managed to move the ball in the third quarter, the Tigers answered each score with one of their own to maintain plenty of cushion.
Missouri's spread attack exploited the slant route consistently, looking like a conveyer belt of receivers rotating through the middle for target practice for Franklin. The senior quarterback also made use of his tight ends for the first time this season. Eric Waters caught three balls for 39 yards and a touchdown.
"We feel like we can beat anybody when we come out like that," Waters said of the Tigers start. "All the hard work we put in really pays off when we can translate it to the field. We've been putting in weeks of hard work, trying to get to that next level and I think we're getting closer."
Coach Franklin apologized to the Vanderbilt fans during the post-game press conference.
Earlier coverage, posted at 10:41 p.m. Saturday:
Missouri scored the game's first 20 points and cruised to a 51-28 victory against Vanderbilt on Saturday night in the Tigers' Southeastern Conference opener.
Quarterback James Franklin threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns, two of them going to L'Damian Washington, and Henry Josey rushed for 69 yards and a pair of scores in his first taste of SEC action.
Franklin hit Washington for a 26-yard score just 77 seconds into the contest for a 7-0 lead. Andrew Baggett sandwiched field goals of 44 and 29 yards around a 11-yard touchdown pass from Franklin to tight end Eric Waters to give Missouri a 20-0 advantage after one quarter.
Vanderbilt got on the scoreboard with a 2-yard run from Wesley Tate.
Josey scored his first touchdown on a 5-yard run, and following Baggett's third field goal of the night, this one from 41 yards, the Tigers took a 30-7 lead into halftime.
Vanderbilt got within 30-14 three minutes into the second half on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Austyn Carta-Samuels to Jordan Matthews. That's as close as the Commodores would get.
Josey plunged in from a yard out to make it 37-14 before Carta-Samuels 2-yard run got Vanderbilt within 16 again.
Franklin hit Marcus Lucas for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:15 left in the third quarter to make it 44-21.
Carta-Samuels connected with Jonathan Krause for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 9:22 left in the game to make it 44-28.
Missouri's explosive offense capped the scoring with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Franklin to Washington just nine seconds later.
Vanderbilt falls to 3-3 and 0-3 in the SEC.
Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC) travels to face Georgia next Saturday.