The streamers were still falling from the Georgia Dome ceiling when some disappointed and disgruntled folks turned their attention to James Franklin on Twitter.
Franklin “sucks” and “is a terrible quarterback” were two early remarks.
But there were plenty more unfortunately.
“This game was lost because Franklin had a terrible day passing.”
“James Franklin should’ve never came back.”
“I can’t wait for James Franklin to be gone.”
Yada yada yada.
It should be noted that there were also plenty of positive comments directed toward Missouri’s senior quarterback.
But for the others …
People, puh-lease. Wake up.
Franklin wasn’t the issue in the No. 5 Tigers’ 59-42 loss to No. 3 Auburn in the Southeastern Conference Championship game Saturday. The Missouri Tigers allowed 545 yards on the ground, including 304 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 46 carries by Tre Mason.
Franklin completed 21 of 37 passes for 303 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, and a passer rating of 146.9. He ran 15 times for 62 yards and another score.
That’s 365 total yards and four touchdowns. The yardage is among his most this season and the four scores tied his season high.
Yes, there was also plenty of room to criticize. His 56.8 completion percentage was his lowest in nine starts this season and his worst in his previous 10 starts going back to last season.
Franklin himself pointed to problems with his performance.
He was asked by reporters after the game what the most frustrating thing about his performance was. He admitted he made mistakes.
“I think on my part a lot of miscues, just with being on the same page with a couple of the guys, throwing a wrong kind of ball or anticipating at the wrong time on my part,” Franklin said. “That’s something that I think that was probably the most disappointing thing.”
Still, the senior quarterback led Mizzou on scoring drives on seven of his team’s first 12 series. The last of those possessions came with Franklin scoring on a 5-yard run with 9 seconds left in the third quarter.
That touchdown, and Franklin’s 2-point conversion run that followed, cut Auburn’s advantage to 45-42 going into the fourth quarter.
The game got away from Missouri in the final frame.
The Auburn rushing attack, led by Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall (101 yards rushing and one touchdown on 16 carries), was just too much for Mizzou to keep up with.
Auburn scored on two of its first three series in the fourth.
Mizzou, meanwhile, wouldn’t score again. The SEC East champions punted on their first possession, then couldn’t convert on fourth down on their next two series.
It shouldn’t take away from what has been an incredible season in Columbia.
After last year’s 5-7 record and disappointing SEC debut, who in their right mind outside of the program would have predicted an 11-2 record and an SEC East Division championship?
If they’re being honest, how many inside the program would’ve even predicted that?
And Franklin, the lightning rod for criticism that he is, was a big part of it, leading the Tigers to a total of eight wins in his nine starts — before and after he injured his shoulder in the win at Georgia.
Saturday’s game was the 30th start in the past three years.
He will leave Missouri ranking either second or third in career passing touchdowns. His 51 touchdown passes trail only Chase Daniel (101) and Brad Smith (56).
His 21 career rushing touchdowns are just behind Tony Temple (22) for 10th on the school’s all-time list. He’d be only the third quarterback on that list, trailing Smith (45) and Corby Jones (38).
His 6,788 career passing yards are the fifth-most in school history. He won’t catch Daniel (12,515) or Smith (8,799), but Jeff Handy (6,959) and Blaine Gabbert (6,822) are both within reach with one game left.
Oh, yeah, well what have you done for me lately?
Franklin led the Tigers to at least 11 wins, an SEC East championship and a top 10 national ranking in his final season.
It’s understandable to be disappointed.
Mizzou had a chance to win the SEC championship in just its second season in the venerable conference, universally considered the best league in the land. A win Saturday and maybe Gary Pinkel’s Tigers could have had a chance to play in the national championship.
Those kinds of things were just dreamt about months ago and on Saturday they seemed to be oh-so-close to becoming reality.
But it’s important to remember that Franklin, with an assist from redshirt freshman fill-in Maty Mauk, made it possible to dream those sweet impossible dreams.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.