COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -
James Franklin's gut reaction: He flunked his first career start.
"Umm, I probably failed this test today," Franklin said after No. 21 Missouri's tougher than expected 17-6 victory over stubborn Miami, Ohio, on Saturday. "I'd say, eh, around a D, maybe."
As the sophomore quarterback kept talking, he eased up on himself. Although his interception led to Miami of Ohio's lone score, he did run for one score and passed for the clinching touchdown.
"I just think a win's a win and it's something I have to learn to enjoy," Franklin said. "There's things that I'm worried about and things that I'm focused on that I didn't do so well.
"I'll give it a C-minus, being positive."
Franklin was 17 for 26 for 129 yards. That was often a half-game under the three quarterbacks who preceded him at Missouri - Blaine Gabbert, Chase Daniel and Brad Smith - all of whom are in the NFL. Coach Gary Pinkel noted that Franklin made some nice throws in the second half, and said there was plenty of room for improvement.
"You grow from adversity," Pinkel said. "You don't like going through it, but you grow from it."
E.J. Gaines had an end zone interception for the Tigers, who whipped the RedHawks by 38 points in their final pre-Big 12 tuneup last season but had their struggles on both sides of the ball in 90-degree heat. Three of their first four possessions ended quickly with punts for an offense that averaged 30 points last season, and Miami moved the ball with some success.
"We played solid overall," defensive end Brad Madison said. "We made a lot of good stops and it was a satisfactory performance."
Gaines' pickoff halted a 67-yard drive near the end of the first half with Missouri up 10-0.
"The momentum shift stuns you," first-year Miami coach Don Treadwell said. "Kind of like a boxer, you get that uppercut but you don't go down."
Missouri hurt itself with 81 yards on nine penalties, and has a short week ahead with the next game Friday night at Arizona State.
"I thought we just made more first-game mistakes than we've had for a long time," Pinkel said. "We have to get better, and we've got to do it pretty fast."
Miami recovered from a 51-13 spanking at Missouri last fall to win the Mid-American Conference, and entered the opener with a six-game winning streak. The RedHawks gave Missouri a scare, trailing 10-6 after Erik Finklea's 10-yard run late in the third quarter.
"We moved the ball well," quarterback Zac Dysert said. "We just have to finish, have to score."
Missouri, which had been around a 20-point favorite, answered on the first play of the fourth quarter. Marcus Lucas' 10-yard catch was his first college touchdown and in his first start as the fill-in for injured Jerrell Jackson.
Dayonne Nunley's interception and 5-yard return of Franklin's overthrown pass gave Miami possession at the Missouri 19 and set up Finklea's score.
Down by 11, Miami ran out of downs at the Missouri 30 midway through the fourth quarter. Dominique Hamilton recovered quarterback Dysert's fumble with 1:49 left.
Two Missouri defensive players left with injuries. Linebacker Will Ebner sustained a high left ankle sprain in the first quarter, which could sideline him for a month, and end Jacquies Smith has a dislocated left elbow that'll keep him out for at least one game.
Miami of Ohio center JoJo Williams left with a slight concussion in the second half.
Franklin's 5-yard run up the middle capped a 76-yard drive late in the first quarter.
The RedHawks struggled on the kicking game, with Mason Krysinski wide left on a 41-yard field goal attempt in the first half and the extra point kick partially blocked after Finklea's score. It was the first game for Krysinski, a sophomore.
"Right off the bat, it puts bad thoughts in your head," Dysert said. "When you miss a field goal, and you have a great kicker, it makes the game a lot different."