COLUMBIA - Missouri Tiger fans can back themselves off the collective ledge.
Contrary to national media reports, Missouri starting quarterback James Franklin isn't out for the season. The senior signal-caller will miss three to five weeks with a sprained right shoulder.
"I was getting injury reports on ESPN. Where'd they come from? Anybody know?" Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel quipped after delivering the news on Franklin's upgraded status.
It's still a big blow for a Missouri team coming off its first road win against a top-10 team since defeating Mississippi State in 1981. The Tigers climbed all the way to 14th in the media and coaches polls after their shocking 41-26 victory against Georgia on Saturday pushed their record to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
"It was a contrast of emotions in that locker room after the game," Pinkel said. "It was certainly, "We have a great win and we're excited about it' and all the emotions in the locker room. Then you have James there who was having a great year, playing as good as any quarterback we've ever had. That's life. ... We're going to be there for him. Plus he has to start coaching now and his leadership still has to crank up. He'll get back as quick as possible to get back."
So now the spotlight shifts to redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, who will take over as the starting quarterback for the time being.
"I hate that James is hurt, everybody does," Mauk said. "I'm just filling his spot until he's back. I'm going to give everything I have every day, every chance I get. I'm going to be ready come Saturday."
Saturday poses another stiff test, as Missouri hosts No. 22 Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC) in its second of three consecutive dates with ranked opponents (11:21 a.m., KMIZ-TV).
"It stinks that I went down, but we still have a lot of talent on the team and I still think we can do pretty good," Franklin said. "The guys on offense, they have a lot of playmakers and they still put up points even when I went out. I know that they can do it. I'd love to be there to help them but I don't have any doubt that they can't still win.
"I think (Mauk) can do a really good job. He just needs to have confidence and the support from everyone else on the team, and we'll give that to him."
Mauk entered the game against Georgia with 10:35 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Tigers ahead by two points. Mauk promptly ran for a first down on a third-and-6 from near midfield and managed to direct two Missouri scoring drives that helped secure the victory.
It was that experience that allows Mauk to believe he's ready for whatever Saturday has to offer.
"The Georgia game is what gave me the experience I needed. You've got 92,000 people all screaming, we're up two, third-and-6, so just for them to have the confidence in me to go in there on my first play and run the ball in that kind of situation in the game, that really built my confidence," Mauk said. "The faith they have in me, that's going to carry into this week and we'll be all right."
Mauk went 3-of-3 passing for 23 yards against Georgia, and has attempted just six passes on the season, completing five of them. That's quite a drastic change from Franklin, who was having a terrific season by completing 67 percent of his passes for 1,577 yards while tossing 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Yet that doesn't change the way Missouri plans to attack Florida.
"We're just going to run our offense, (Mauk's) been doing it for a long time," Pinkel said. "When he went in the (Georgia) game, we didn't cross things out, we just run what we run. That's what we're going to do.
"He's probably going to make some mistakes like all kids do, but the big thing is you don't want him to be a robot out there, you want him to do what he does and play quarterback the way he plays quarterback.
"He's certainly excited about the opportunity. He's surrounded by an experienced offensive line, receivers, he has a lot of good people around him. All those people step their game up a little bit that's going to help him quarterback a little better."
Notes: As expected, sophomore Corbin Berkstresser slides into the backup quarterback slot. Freshman Eddie Printz sits at No. 3 on the depth chart. ... Senior cornerback E.J. Gaines is questionable after suffering a strained quadricep against Georgia. ... Backup left guard Anthony Gatti (turf toe) is back after missing last Saturday's game. ... Missouri's Homecoming game against South Carolina on Oct. 26 will be played at 6 p.m. and broadcast on ESPN. ... Missouri linebacker Kentrell Brothers was named the SEC defensive player of the week. Brothers made a career-high 10 tackles and had an interception in the final minute to seal the win.