Let me start by saying that I, in no way, am intending to start off some sort of QB controversy. I've been a huge James Franklin apologist (as I was with Gabbert before him), and I certainly don't want to lay all the blame at his feet. We all know that at a school like Mizzou, the backup QB tends to be the most popular player on campus, and Berk looked solid in garbage time, throwing with more authority than Franklin does. After a game like today, that has to put Franklin in a tough position.
I will say, however, that two things severely limited our ability to compete today:
1) Mizzou's stubbornness in playcalling and inability/refusal to adapt as games go on. This is something that has ALWAYS plagued us. Steckel's D seemed to run a basic 4-3 scheme most of the game today unless on the goal line. USC ran simple 5 or 6 yard curls in the middle of the field the entire first half, and their guys were wide open EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. How is there no adjustment made there after the first drive? Then, there was one 4th down in the 3rd quarter where USC lined up, clearly planning to pound the ball with Lattimore on 4th and 1, and Mizzou trotted out the 4-3 anyways, as if expecting them to fake the run and throw it. Imagine my surprise when USC easily converted.
But as frustrating as that is, I can forgive the D, because for the most part, they've done their part this year. The REAL exasperation comes from the kid gloves with which Pinkel/Yost seem to handling the offense. Berkstresser has a huge arm, but you wouldn't have known it based on the ultra vanilla offense we played against ASU last week, and it came THISCLOSE to biting us. Ultimately though, I figure they just wanted to protect the young backup in his 1st start. There was no reason to not come out today and take some shots to let the Cocks know we weren't afraid. Instead, what do we do? Keep running the same old read-option basic offense. USC was basically openly DARING us to take a shot at their DBs. They constantly had 6 or 7 guys in the box and gave our WRs a little cushion, but as always, Yost was too busy beating a dead horse with the read option plays to even notice. One would think they'd try to throw the ball a bit more, if for no other reason than to keep Franklin from taking a beating.
2) As much as I like Franklin for his toughness, respectfulness, and dual-threat abilities, I really had to wonder today if he's a good enough passer to lead us to much success this year (or possibly next). There's no shame in having your first two SEC losses being to two top-10 teams, but if he could have played today, in any way, REMOTELY as okay as he did against Georgia, we might have had a ballgame. But whether it was by design or just his own hesitance, Franklin looked plain scared to challenge USC through the air today. We've all known for awhile that he's no Chase Daniel/Blaine Gabbert when throwing the ball, and he never will be, but today was the first time I've questioned whether he could ever be good enough as a passer to lead us to where we want to be. Not going to lie to you guys - I'm really concerned now. It's still early in the season, and he is just returning from re-injuring that shoulder, but today, he did not look good. It's not just about the lack of arm strength; it's about ability to be accurate and make multiple reads on a pass play. No play sums that up better than the one on our 1st or 2nd drive, when, on 3rd and long, Franklin looked down the field just long enough to throw the defense off the scent before turning to the flat and settling for a swing pass that netted 2 or 3 yards. We needed about 8 for a first down. The worst part? It was one of the few pass plays where he didn't have to run for his life, and had he taken just a little more time to make his reads, he'd have seen T.J. Moe wide open about 12 yards downfield, which would have EASILY gotten the 1st down, and maybe more. If your QB isn't willing to look downfield and make the throws that'll help his team compete, then what good is he doing you? Unless you're running the ball for 8 yards a play (WHICH WE AREN'T), then you have to make the defense pay for openly challenging you to challenge their DBs. People can say what they want about Daniel's lack of arm strength, or Gabbert's skittishness in the face of pressure, but you could never question whether, given the opportunity, they wouldn't absolutely undress a defense that gave them the leeway to throw. This could be our deepest group of skill players in a long time, but if Franklin isn't confidence enough to attack defenses (the way it seemed he wasn't today), then we might struggle as much as our former Big 12 mates keep saying we will.
Either way, our coaches and QBs need to sit down and talk about whether we REALLY want to compete in the SEC this season, or all of that is just lip service.
Also, our special teams aren't very good. But you guys already knew that.