COLUMBIA, Mo. - Needing a spark for an offense that had hit a wall, Missouri quarterback James Franklin turned back the clock Saturday afternoon at Faurot Field.
With Missouri clinging to a 24-23 lead early in the third quarter against Toledo, Franklin put the Tigers on his back via his legs.
The senior rushed for 51 yards on back-to-back touchdown drives late in the third quarter and fourth quarter as Missouri pulled away for a 38-23 victory before an announced crowd of 56,785.
Franklin, who has run the ball less by design since his 2011 breakout season, seemed determined to take over the game in the third quarter when the Tigers desperately needed an offensive boost.
Franklin, who said he might hear from his coaches about his decision to push for more yards instead of go to the ground, said he doesn't like to run the ball as much as he did in 2011 because he trusts his arm more. But it was circa 2011 on Saturday.
"Sometimes we have to make some plays, I'm happy to do that," Franklin said. "I want to throw the ball as much as I can."
Franklin lowered his head on a run in the third quarter to plow through a defender to get extra yards. That seemed to put an extra step in his teammates.
"That picked us up a lot," receiver Dorial Green-Beckham said. "Not a whole lot of things went well going downfield. So with James taking off getting first downs, that's really big. It gets our tempo going."
Franklin, who said only two of his runs were designed runs, finished with 77 yards rushing on 17 carries. He was 16-of-25 for 203 yards through the air.
Franklin's play was key for an offense that had struggled to establish the run game as Toledo hung around until midway through the fourth quarter.
At one point in the third quarter the Rockets had a 150-9 advantage in total yards thanks to an effective screen game that left Missouri's defense befuddled at times.
Toledo (0-2) running back David Fluellen had 111 yards rushing and caught 10 passes for 100 yards. The Rockets outgained the Tigers 387-384 in the game and averaged 5.4 yard per rush.
"We weren't covering it very well," Pinkel said. "If I had the answer for it ... I would have fixed it a lot quicker than we did."
He added: "There was no doubt, we had a lot of trouble with that. We call it perimeter run support."
Missouri opened up a 10-3 lead midway through the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by Henry Josey.
After a pair of Toledo field goals cut Missouri's lead to 10-9, the Tigers struck before halftime to take a 17-9 lead on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Franklin to Green-Beckham on a fade route. Green-Beckham used his size and athleticism to outjump the defender.
"We've just got to go up there and make those plays," Green-Beckham said.
Missouri's defense helped out with a couple of timely interceptions on back-to-back possessions. With 7 seconds left in the first half and Toledo trailing 17-9, Rockets quarterback Terrance Owens threw an ill-advised pass to the corner that was intercepted by Matt White. Had Owens thrown the ball away, Toledo likely would have had time to kick a field goal.
Missouri then silenced the Rockets' opening drive of the second half. Markus Golden hit Owens as he was throwing. The ball popped into the air and Golden ran it back 70 yards for a touchdown to put Missouri up 24-9.
"That was a great play," Pinkel said.
Golden was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play. That helped set Toledo up in good field position on its next possession as the Rockets rallied for back-to-back touchdown drives to cut Missouri's lead to 24-23 with 4:22 left in the third quarter.
But that's when Franklin took over, leading the Tigers to their first 2-0 start since 2010.
"He's a competitor," Pinkel said. "If we're struggling a little bit, he can do that, he's capable. He's going to pick the right moments and the right time."
Notes: Missouri lost a key member of its defense early in the third quarter when senior linebacker Andrew Wilson was ejected for targeting. Wilson lowered his helmet and appeared to extend his forearm on a play over the middle. Wilson will have to sit out the first half of Missouri's next game, Saturday, Sept. 21, at Indiana. Pinkel said he has to go back and look at the tape. "The bottom line is you can't hit above the shoulders, you can't do it," Pinkel said. ... Offensive linemen Max Copleand suffered a sprained ankle. Pinkel also said cornerback E.J. Gaines and linebacker Kentrell Brothers were banged up but did not know to what extent. ... Backup cornerback Ernest Payton will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Payton did not play Saturday.