Missouri Tigers Football: James Franklin Makes Gary Pinkel Look Good

Corey RuddContributor IIINovember 11, 2012

KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 10: James Franklin #1 of the Missouri Tigers runs with the ball against the Tennessee Volunteers during the game at Neyland Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Missouri won 51-48 in four overtimes. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

After last week's 14-7 road loss to the Florida Gators, Missouri Tigers head football coach Gary Pinkel spent several days defending his junior quarterback, James Franklin

Franklin, who has been fighting through shoulder and knee injuries throughout the season, threw four interceptions in the loss at Florida, and his play came under a lot of scrutiny.  

"I believe in him," Pinkel said of Franklin after the loss. (via stltoday.com)

This week, Franklin rewarded his coach with an amazing effort in Mizzou's 51-48 win over Tennessee in four overtimes. 

At first glance, it looked like much of the same on Saturday as the Mizzou offense racked up a putrid 64 yards of total offense in the first half against a very shaky Volunteers defense.  Mizzou went to the locker room trailing 21-7.

The second half was a different story for the Tigers, who received a shot in the arm by a 77-yard touchdown scamper by Kendial Lawrence.  

From there, Franklin took over and led the offense, showing signs of the dual-threat athleticism he displayed throughout his sophomore season.  

Franklin completed the Mizzou comeback with a 25-yard strike to freshman Dorial Green-Beckham to tie the game with just 47 seconds remaining.  

The score forced overtime, where Franklin was absolutely nails.  Franklin tossed three touchdown passes in the first three overtimes, connecting on 24-yard pass to Jimmy Hunt, an 18-yard toss to Marcus Lucas and another 10-yard pass to Green-Beckham before Mizzou won in the fourth overtime on a field goal.   

Franklin stepped up when Pinkel and the Tigers needed him most.  Franklin finished the game with four touchdowns, one interception and 226 yards through the air on 19 completions in 32 attempts. Franklin also gutted out 43 tough yards on the ground.  

A light seemingly turned on, and Franklin suddenly emerged as the leader of the Tigers' offense.

Franklin was aggressive.  He was relentless. He was nearly unstoppable in crunch time.  

Franklin's performance on Saturday was unbelievable, considering how bad he looked after the Florida game.  Many Mizzou fans were already looking forward to next season when freshman Maty Mauk, who Pinkel chose to redshirt, would be ready to take the reigns of the Mizzou offense and relieve Franklin for good. 

Franklin showed on Saturday that he is not quite ready to step aside.  Franklin displayed that he is a quarterback who can succeed in the SEC.  A quarterback who can rally his team and get results under adversity.  

Franklin showed guts on Saturday in Knoxville.  The kid is still not healthy, but he laid it on the line when Mizzou needed it most.  

Franklin's performance may help the Tigers become bowl-eligible.  It may help Mizzou down the road in recruiting.  It definitely will help his own cause next season, as the quarterback competition in Columbia will be certain to heat up in 2013. 

For now, in 2012, Franklin is the man, and should be applauded for his four-touchdown performance on Saturday.