It was 2011 all over again at Memorial Stadium.
Senior quarterback James Franklin and junior running back Henry Josey, both hampered by injuries last season, had vintage performances as Missouri dominated Murray State 58-14.
Josey missed all of the 2012 season after suffering a cataclysmic knee injury left him rehabilitating a torn patellar tendon, ACL and MCL. Following the game, coach Gary Pinkel gave Josey the game ball, something he said he has never done before.
“(I have) never been involved in giving a ball, it’s a team sport, ever to hand a ball to one player,” Pinkel said. “And what we did after that, on behalf of the entire team, coaches and everybody, we brought him in the middle and presented him the team ball.”
Josey clutched that game ball as he addressed reporters.
“It shows how close of a family we are,” Josey said
He ran for 113 yards on 13 carries, aided by a 68-yard touchdown run where he out-ran a Racer defender who had an angle on him.
“When he scored that touchdown, I said there’s nobody that’s going to catch him, and they didn’t,” Pinkel said.
Franklin threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns in just over a half of play. He sat just seven yards short of his career high before freshman quarterback Maty Mauk took over with 9:19 left in the third quarter.
“I thought James played really well tonight,” Pinkel said. “I thought he was very poised and I thought he just really executed well.”
Franklin said it was the best he’d felt since his sophomore year of high school.
“I’m just doing a better job taking care of myself and being smart with the ball,” Franklin said.
The game started close, as Murray State led 14-13 after the first quarter. Racer quarterback Maikhail Miller gave the visitors the lead on trick play, a five-yard touchdown catch from receiver Jeremy Harness.
“Their quarterback was really good,” Pinkel said. “He ran some draws, some things, he was quick, athletic. We didn’t know, hardly, anything about the guy, and so we had to make some adjustments on that.”
Sophomore running back Russell Hansbrough kept Missouri in the game in the first quarter, rushing for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the opening period alone.
“He’s going to be really good,” Pinkel said. “He’s a little bit different type of runner, it’s OK, every runner’s a little bit different, and that certainly presents itself.”
After allowing 196 yards in the first quarter, the Missouri defense allowed just 101 yards in the next three quarters, and the team as a whole outscored Murray State 45-0. Senior cornerback E.J. Gaines recorded two interceptions, more than the entire 2012 season.
Mauk, who competed for the starting job, played most of the second half for Missouri. He also saw some time in the first half, running a few plays while the game was still close.
Sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham caught four balls for a career-high 83 yards, all in the first half. Green-Beckham didn’t play in the second half after bruising his left hand.
“It was x-rayed right away, he’s fine,” Pinkel said.
Next week, Missouri will face Toledo (0-1), Pinkel’s former school. The game is a 2:30 p.m. kick and will be televised on ESPNU.