COLUMBIA — Missouri quarterback James Franklin had a huge hole to run through in the fourth quarter of Saturday's 41-26 win over Georgia. With 10 yards of green grass between him and the next Georgia defender, he made a 90-degree turn and headed straight for the sidelines.
Something was up.
"We had no idea what was going on," center Evan Boehm said.
A play earlier, Franklin was driven into the ground while scrambling to his left and flipping a pass out of bounds. Sandwiched by two Georgia defenders, Franklin slammed the ground, his throwing hand leading the way. The force on his hand caused his shoulder to jam, sending a sudden pain to the most important joint on his body.
“I shook my shoulder, and I thought it was a stinger," Franklin said. "Then it didn’t really feel like a stinger, so that’s why I came off the field.”
The official diagnosis on Franklin's injury announced by coach Gary Pinkel was a sprained right shoulder. On Monday, Pinkel said Franklin will miss between three and five weeks of play.
In the locker room after Saturday's game, the situation seemed worse. While the Tigers were celebrating one of the biggest wins in the program's history, a dejected Franklin sat with tears in his eyes and his shoulder heavily wrapped.
He could hardly muster a smile in a locker room filled with them.
"That's life," Pinkel said. "I feel for him. The good thing is he has people around him that support him and a team that loves him. We're going to be there for him."
Franklin made his way back to the sideline to watch the end of the game, but while others skipped to the locker room shouting and laughing after the win, Franklin walked gingerly toward the tunnel. He couldn't even make it to the crowd of Missouri fans celebrating with the players.
"I could tell they were concerned about me," Franklin said.
After a 2012 season filled with injuries, Franklin had put it all behind him. This season he had a completion percentage of 67.7 percent and had thrown 14 touchdowns to only three interceptions.
"He was playing as great as any quarterback we've ever had," Pinkel said.
Now, Franklin has to deal with another setback.
A few hours after the game ended, reports from CBS and ESPN had Franklin missing at least six weeks or the rest of the regular season. Lucky for Franklin, his phone was dead, so he didn't hear the reports.
On Monday, Pinkel still couldn't figure out where the reports came from.
"Where did they come from?" Pinkel asked reporters. "Anybody know?"
Either way, Franklin is out for Saturday's game against Florida, the Oct. 26 game against South Carolina, and the Nov. 2 game against Tennessee. Missouri then travels to Kentucky on Nov. 9 followed by a bye week on Nov. 16. If Franklin misses the full five weeks, he would be in line to return against Ole Miss on Nov. 23.
In the meantime, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk takes over as Missouri's starting quarterback. Pinkel wouldn't reveal details about potential changes to the offensive game plan, insisting that the team would run its offense as it normally does.
Mauk, who lost a quarterback competition to Franklin in fall camp, has never started a college game. His first start comes against a Florida defense that ranks No. 4 in the country, allowing only 13.0 points per game.
"You look at their numbers, it's pretty staggering," Pinkel said.
Pinkel and Franklin insist the senior captain will take on a coaching role during his injury, helping Mauk on the sideline and doing whatever he can to lead the team.
"No matter what, I'm going to tell him the things I think can help him out and just keep encouraging him," Franklin said.
With the upcoming slate of games against top-ranked Southeastern Conference opponents, Mauk will take all the help he can get.
But just how good can he be?
"You'll just have to come and watch to find out," Franklin said.