COLUMBIA — Missouri quarterback James Franklin still hasn't cheered up after his four interceptions in the 14-7 loss to Florida on Saturday.
The quarterback came to Missouri's media day Monday looking as if his puppy just ran away.
Franklin was a bit more talkative than he was Saturday after the game but still without his typical smile and upbeat responses.
Franklin made it clear that health was no longer an issue, saying he is "pretty close to a hundred (percent)."
Franklin hasn't tried to deflect any blame, but his coaches and teammates have been anything but hard on him.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel praised the quarterback for how much he has been through and emphasized how difficult it is to perform with less than full practice time. The coach pointed out that most of Franklin's mistakes came from fixable mechanical errors rather than bad decisions.
"Mostly the mistakes he made were simply missed throws," Pinkel said. "I believe in him."
Receiver T.J. Moe, who had just 12 yards receiving against Florida, said the game was one of the most fun of the season for the offense. Even though the offense managed just seven points, Moe credits Franklin for the offense being able to move the ball. The Tigers outgained the Gators in offensive yardage 335 to 276.
"He came with an attitude that he hasn’t shown in a while here," Moe said. "He’s been trying to protect his body so he can help the team. I get that, and he just decided on Saturday that he didn’t care. There were a couple of different times where he could have run out of bounds or slid or done whatever. I mean he’d pick up 20 yards to get us a first down and move us right down the field."
Cornerback Kip Edwards took the same stance as linebacker Will Ebner, saying the defense should take the blame for the loss.
When asked if he was concerned about Franklin's confidence heading into next week, Edwards simply said, "James is a boss, so I'm not worried about it."
Franklin might have lost the game with his four interceptions and other missed throws, but he hasn't lost his team.
"(They) are all just encouraging me. Telling me, 'Just try not to worry about it and prepare for this week,' cause they will need me to step up and keep being a leader," Franklin said. "So they just gave me some encouragement, told me not to hold onto it.”
The Tigers are backing Franklin as their starting quarterback, and he'll have an opportunity to redeem himself when the Tigers play the Tennessee Volunteers at 11:21 a.m. Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.
If there is ever a game for the Missouri offense to get going, this is it. Tennessee's defense has allowed at least 38 points in each of its past five games.
The Tigers should probably be more worried about Tennessee's potent offense. The Volunteers have averaged 36.8 points per game compared to Missouri's 22.6.
The defense has picked up the offense and kept Missouri in several games this season. On Saturday, the offense will likely need to at least carry its own weight.
If the offense is going to improve, it will have to be with the personnel it has, or less. Right tackle Justin Britt will miss the rest of the season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee he suffered in the loss to Florida.
Assuming guard Evan Boehm starts Saturday, he will be Missouri's only offensive lineman to start all 10 games this season. Boehm, a true freshman, wasn't even projected to start on the offensive line at all before the season.
Even without Britt for most of the game, left tackle Elvis Fisher thought the line played well.
"I feel like on offense, we were clicking on offense," Fisher said. "Things were working. We just got to learn to get in the end zone."
The offensive line will still be banged up and the quarterback will still be James Franklin, but the Tigers offense is looking forward to the next game.
"Everybody decided, we don't care, we want to play our best." Moe said. "I'm really excited for this week and to finish the season out with that attitude because I think we can be a tough team."
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.