Photo via Bill Carter.
Subtitle: THE JAMES FRANKLIN EXPERIMENT IS A FAILURE. BRING ON MATY MAUK OR CORBIN BERKSTRESSER OR SOME RANDOM OTHER QUARTERBACK OFF THE STREET WHO IS CLEARLY BETTER THAN JAMES FRANKLIN.
(Full "Links And Reflections" post is forthcoming, but this section of that post got rather long, and I decided I wanted it to stand alone.)
On October 12, 2002, in his sixth game as Missouri starter, Brad Smith completed just 14 of 29 passes for 123 yards and rushed for just 34 yards in a 24-13 loss to a Nebraska team that would finish just 7-7.
On October 28, 2006, in his ninth game as Missouri starter, Chase Daniel completed 23 of 44 passes and was picked off three times in a 26-10 loss to an Oklahoma team that would win the Big 12 but finish just 11th in the country.
On October 17, 2009, in his sixth game as Missouri starter, Blaine Gabbert completed 22 of 44 passes and was picked off three times in a 33-17 loss to a banged up Oklahoma State team that would finish unranked.
October is hard on first-year starters, especially in an excellent conference. James Franklin's completion percentage hovered around 50 percent yesterday, just like those in the examples above. He threw three picks, just like Daniel and Gabbert above. And he did this against a defense better than those of 2002 Nebraska and 2009 Oklahoma State (OSU did, granted, have the advantage of facing a gimpy Gabbert) and at least rather comparable to 2006 Oklahoma's. Oklahoma State's is an active, opportunistic defense, and they did to Franklin what they've done to everybody else this year. And they got a little lucky, too. Let's just say that it's rare for one defensive end (Jamie Blatnick) to not only bat down two passes, but have both of them deflect to another defensive end for an interception. Most of the time, they fall harmlessly to the turf.
Am I a bit dismayed by some of Franklin's mistakes? Of course. He still makes screw-ups in clusters, he still occasionally fails to put enough oomph on some passes (I'm pretty sure we can adequately conclude that his arm strength is not even to par with that of Chase Daniel), then airmails others, and he still fails to show urgency at certain times. But here's the deal: I have always held a firm belief that whatever creates a person's most positive traits also create their worst.
The things that might (might) make James Franklin great one day -- poise, comfort in the pocket, run-pass ability -- are sometimes tripping him up now. Instead of looking poised, he looks indecisive at times. Instead of having a good, comfortable feel for what he is and isn't, he looks like he lacks improvisational skills and/or doesn't quite realize how much juice a certain throw needs (or how to maneuver in the pocket so his passes are less likely to get batted down). Instead of rolling out and waiting as long as possible to commit to running or throwing (a la Russell Wilson), he leaves the pocket and commits to running without keeping his eyes downfield (he missed a wide open Michael Egnew deep downfield on one particular run yesterday). He also, as he did yesterday, tends to sometimes be passive with his runs, content to follow blockers a little too long without making an assertive move.
We have no idea if things are going to "click" for Franklin the way they have with Missouri's last three starting quarterbacks, but we do know two things:
1) Each of the last three quarterbacks experienced some serious glitches in October of their first year as starter.
2) Even with the glitches, here's how Franklin's stat line projects over a full, 13-game season (and no, there are no guarantees right now that we're looking at 13 games instead of 12):
241-for-401 (60%), 3,105 yards (7.7 per pass), 20 TD, 13 INT; 825 rushing yards, 13 TD
And here are the first-year averages for Smith, Daniel and Gabbert:
248-for-421 (59%) passing, 3,151 yards (7.5 per pass), 22 TD, 8 INT; 537 rushing yards, 5 TD
Does Franklin need to improve? Absolutely. Is he drastically far behind the curve? Absolutely not. In fact, he is almost disturbingly on the curve in areas other than interceptions (worse) and rushing (better).
The Trib: MU quarterback learns the hard way that turnovers aren’t tolerable
Post-Dispatch: Pinkel defends Franklin
KC Star: Franklin suffers more growing pains in Mizzou’s loss to Oklahoma State
Daily Oklahoman: Cowboy defense believing in 'a little magic'