Pinkel, Franklin Optimistic About QB, Tigers Face Must-Win Scenario
COLUMBIA - When the Mizzou football team takes on No. 24 Ole Miss Saturday, senior quarterback James Franklin will be able to be under center. But even after missing three whole games and playing in a limited role in last week's game in Lexington, his game doesn't appear to have suffered.
"He looks really good," head coach Gary Pinkel said. "He looks just like he left off before the injury."
In fact, Franklin thinks he may even be able to play at a higher level than he did at the beginning of the season.
"The ball feels better coming off my hand than it did before," Franklin said. "Hopefully, I can do a little bit better than before."
The Tigers' test against the Rebels is the first of two must-win games to keep their chances of winning the SEC East alive. If Mizzou falters in either that matchup or its duel the following week against Texas A&M, South Carolina will surpass Missouri in the standings. But Pinkel said the Tigers shouldn't let that influence the way they play.
"Teams that prepare right don't let that affect them. They focus on what they can control and that is playing well," he said. "That is when your mental toughness kicks in, and you do not let outside things change your focus. I will be really disappointed if we put all those kind of pressures on ourselves. That does not help you play well."
Senior cornerback E.J. Gaines has a slightly different mindset about the situation, seemingly embracing the opportunity more than anything else.
"I am excited about it," he said. "People are calling it a lot of pressure, but I just think that it is an opportunity for our football team to succeed."
If the squad does succeed, it will have the opportunity to play for the SEC Championship in Atlanta on Dec. 7.