GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With 1:49 remaining, Missouri still had a chance somehow.
But the final drive turned out like too many had earlier in the day for the Tigers. Drive down the field only to come up empty. The already loud crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium erupted even more as quarterback James Franklin threw an interception to the back of the end zone to seal the 14-7 Florida win.
Franklin walked off the field. Max Copeland put his arm around him. Comforting him. Although he was making his first start since Oct. 6, it was not a good day for the quarterback. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel defended him.
"The first two picks were just from throwing and a few just sailed on him, and that's just a guy that has not practiced consistently enough over the last two months," Pinkel said. "He battled in there. (The) guy's been through so much."
Franklin's teammates didn't place the blame on him either, but Franklin clearly felt responsible for the loss. He did not smile at all when talking to reporters after the game. The normally cheerful quarterback spoke very softly in a low voice.
"I know they are just trying to have my back, but I can't turn the ball over four times," Franklin said.
Missouri scored only once. Franklin completed just 24 of 51 pass attempts for 236 yards and four interceptions.
He struggled with his accuracy throughout the game. It started early. On Missouri's first drive, Franklin threw behind a wide-open L'Damian Washington, and Missouri was forced to punt.
Later, Franklin threw a deep pass out of bounds over Washington, who was open on the sideline. One of the junior quarterback's interceptions came when he overthrew Washington down the right sideline. Another one of Franklin's passes was picked off when it sailed over receiver Bud Sasser down the middle of the field.
"I felt good. Just didn't make any good throws," Franklin said.
The Tigers were able to move the ball at times but rarely capitalized. The defense kept them in the game and allowed them to start three straight drives in Gator territory, but it was no use.
"It's just not finishing. I felt like we drove the ball well today," left tackle Elvis Fisher said. "They're gonna get you a couple of times. You've got to capitalize on times they don't get you."
The Tigers' only touchdown came on a 27-yard drive when E.J. Gaines recovered a fumble to give Missouri the ball in Florida territory.
Outside the Missouri locker room, two men dressed in Florida gear stopped Franklin as he was leaving. They asked to take a picture with him.
After having what he called the toughest loss of the season, Franklin still posed for the photo.
He forced a smile for the camera and walked away.