Franklin ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, and the Tigers easily beat North Carolina 41-24 in the Independence Bowl on Monday night.
Missouri (8-5) ends the season on a four-game winning streak for the first time since 1965. The Tigers will join the SEC next fall and showed one reason they should be a factor immediately: The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Franklin, a sophomore who generally did as he pleased in both the running and passing games.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Franklin has just started to realize his potential.
"After the game, I gave him a hug and said congratulations," Pinkel said. "Then I went back and asked `What happens when you get really good?' ... He kind of gave me a look, but that's a huge compliment."
Franklin, named the game's offensive Most Valuable Player, rushed for 142 yards and threw for 132 despite less than ideal conditions in the cold and rain at Independence Stadium. He led the Tigers to 31 first-half points - an Independence Bowl record.
For North Carolina (7-6), a season that started with a promising 5-1 record ends with a lopsided loss. The Tar Heels lost five of their final seven under interim coach Everett Withers, who leaves to become defensive coordinator at Ohio State under Urban Meyer.
North Carolina had the Atlantic Coast Conference's second-best rushing defense, giving up just 106.2 yards per game. But the Tigers found plenty of running room with Franklin and Kendial Lawrence, repeatedly gashing the Tar Heels for big gains.
"(Frankin) is just such a dynamic guy running and throwing that you have to respect both," Withers said. "I always count the quarterback as an extra running back in the spread and that's exactly what he was."
Lawrence rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown as the Tigers racked up 337 yards on the ground.
North Carolina's poor defense wasted a productive game by quarterback Bryn Renner, who threw for 317 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. But Renner couldn't offset the Tar Heels' anemic running game, which produced just 36 yards.
Freshman running back Giovani Bernard rushed for 31 yards - more than 70 yards less than his season average.
Withers said he didn't think the program's upcoming coaching change had any bearing on the outcome. The Tar Heels hired Southern Mississippi's Larry Fedora last week.
"We've had issues for two years so I don't know why tonight would be any distraction," Withers said.
Missouri's mascot - Truman the Tiger - shattered most of the original Independence Bowl trophy before the game started in a pre-game accident. The Tigers were more than happy to claim the replacement.
Pinkel didn't shy away from the importance of the game, saying the result would be "a trivia question after I'm long gone."
North Carolina scored first, with Renner hitting Dwight Jones for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 12:12 left in the first quarter. That would be the high point for the Tar Heels.
Missouri responded with a 40-yard touchdown pass from receiver T.J. Moe to Wes Kemp after a lateral from Franklin. Moe hadn't thrown a touchdown pass since his days as a high school quarterback in suburban St. Louis, and it was just his second complete pass of the season.
"I saw the corner bite and I just let her go," Moe said.
The Tigers scored again on Franklin's 2-yard run to take a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by Franklin's 16-yard pass to L'Damian Washington that put the Tigers at the 2-yard line. Washington grew up in Shreveport, just a few miles from Independence Stadium.
And Missouri just kept piling on.
The Tigers scored two touchdowns and a field goal during the second quarter to take a 31-10 halftime lead.
North Carolina had a glimmer of hope late in the third when Jheranie Boyd caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Renner to pull the Tar Heels to 34-17, but Missouri responded minutes later with Franklin's second touchdown run and the rout continued.
Missouri Bowl History (Record: 13-16)
|Dec. 26, 2011||Independence Bowl-Missouri 41, North Carolina 24|
|Dec. 28, 2010||Insight Bowl-Iowa 27, Missouri 24|
|Dec. 31, 2009||Texas Bowl-Navy 35, Missouri 13|
|Dec. 29, 2008||Alamo Bowl-Missouri 30, Northwestern 23, OT|
|Jan. 1, 2008||Capital One Bowl-Missouri 38, Arkansas 7|
|Dec. 29, 2006||Sun Bowl-Oregon St. 39, Missouri 38|
|Dec. 30, 2005||Independence Bowl-Missouri 38, South Carolina 31|
|Dec. 31, 2003||Independence Bowl-Arkansas 27, Missouri 14|
|Dec. 26 1998||Insight.com Bowl-Missouri 34, West Virginia 31|
|Dec. 29 1997||Holiday Bowl-Colorado St. 35, Missouri 24|
|Dec. 23 1983||Holiday Bowl-Brigham Young 21, Missouri 17|
|Dec. 19 1981||Tangerine Bowl-Missouri 19, Southern Miss 17|
|Dec. 27 1980||Liberty Bowl-Purdue 28, Missouri 25|
|Dec. 29 1979||Hall of Fame Bowl-Missouri 24, South Carolina 14|
|Dec. 23 1978||Liberty Bowl-Missouri 20, LSU 15|
|Dec. 29 1973||Sun Bowl-Missouri 34, Auburn 17|
|Dec. 23 1972||Fiesta Bowl-Arizona St. 49, Missouri 35|
|Jan. 1 1970||Orange Bowl-Penn St. 10, Missouri 3|
|Dec. 28 1968||Gator Bowl-Missouri 35, Alabama 10|
|Jan. 1 1966||Sugar Bowl-Missouri 20, Florida 18|
|Dec. 22 1962||Bluebonnet Bowl-Missouri 14, Georgia Tech 10|
|Jan. 2 1961||Orange Bowl-Missouri 21, Navy 14|
|Jan. 1 1960||Orange Bowl-Georgia 14, Missouri 0|
|Jan. 2 1950||Gator Bowl-Maryland 20, Missouri 7|
|Jan. 1 1949||Gator Bowl-Clemson 24, Missouri 23|
|Jan. 1 1946||Cotton Bowl-Texas 40, Missouri 27|
|Jan. 1 1942||Sugar Bowl-Fordham 2, Missouri 0|
|Jan. 1 1940||Orange Bowl-Georgia Tech 21, Missouri 7|
|Dec. 25 1924||L.A. Christmas Festival-Southern Cal 20, Missouri 7|