COLUMBIA — What is wrong with the Missouri football team?
In a 31-10 loss Saturday at South Carolina, it seemed like everything went wrong for the Tigers.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he was most disappointed with the punt team, which allowed Gamecocks returner Ace Sanders to average 17.7 yards running back six punts. As a result, the Missouri defense was often given poor field position during the game.
But even if Missouri had contained the South Carolina punt returner, it would have been difficult for the Tigers to win with their futile offensive effort.
The Missouri offense produced just 255 yards, including 75 on a meaningless touchdown drive led by backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser just before the end of the game.
The Tigers failed to get anything going when it mattered. At the team's media day Monday, Pinkel seemed annoyed at the flow of questions from reporters about the offense's struggles.
The coach offered an obvious solution.
"I think you got to block better, you've got to throw better, and you've got to catch better," he said. "And if we do all those things better, and we're consistent, then we move the ball better. And that's the facts."
Pinkel avoided elaborating on exactly what went wrong with the Tigers' offense Saturday. He gave credit to the Gamecocks' defense but said he was also disappointed with his offense's execution.
Maybe the Missouri offense struggled because of its young and inexperienced offensive line. The group includes redshirt junior guard Max Copeland, freshman guard Evan Boehm and sophomore center Mitch Morse, who all had not started a game coming into the season.
Quarterback play was also a problem. James Franklin completed just 11 of 18 passes for a career low 92 yards against South Carolina.
Franklin said the pain from his inflamed bursa has impacted his play, mostly by affecting his confidence.
"When it's hurting, I know it's going to hurt when I throw," Franklin said. "I think that's really been killing my confidence because I've been not trusting myself with being able to make throws."
Franklin also said he is frustrated because the shoulder injury doesn't seem to be getting much better. However, he plans to test his arm more at practice this week.
"Although it's gonna hurt, it's not gonna get any worse," Franklin said.
Pinkel backed his quarterback despite the unproductive outing.
"He's doing OK. I believe in him," Pinkel said. "I expect him to get better."
Franklin said he watched film of the game and saw that he was not playing aggressively enough. He said he was playing tentatively and not attacking the defense. The junior quarterback even said he might stop thinking about protecting himself when he runs. He thinks he can be more productive if he goes back to the way he ran the ball last season.
There have been plenty of suggestions to fix the offense. Some want more aggressive play calling. Some want more carries for the running backs. But Pinkel said he makes it clear to his players at meetings what they need to do to improve.
"It's my job to fix the problems that we have here," Pinkel said. "They can forget about what their parents say, they can forget about what they read, they can forget about all the stuff that's out there, and I'm gonna tell them what's wrong with our football team."