A promising, would-be game-tying Missouri drive ended as so many others had previously to close Saturday’s SEC showdown. Quarterback James Franklin threw his fourth interception into the end zone, snapping the Tigers’ first ever SEC win streak at one in a 14-7 loss to Florida. Elsewhere in the conference, James Franklin coached Vanderbilt to a 40-0 rout of hapless Kentucky, the Commodores’ sixth and bowl game-sealing win. Vanderbilt is headed to the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history; Missouri is likely frozen out of a bowl game in its SEC debut campaign.
Saturday was a tale of two James Franklins that ended with much different results.
Vanderbilt has had a long and arduous road to competing in the SEC. When it takes the field in a bowl this postseason, Franklin’s tenure will account for one-third of all the program’s bowl appearances. Ever. And Franklin is in just his second season as Commodores’ head coach.
VU proves what a difficult road the SEC can set forth. Missouri is discovering firsthand just how difficult. A Kentucky team nearing historical proportions of futility provided Missouri its first SEC win, two months into MU’s first season. The Missouri athletic store offered a t-shirt commemorating the event, earning some undue derision. Undue, in that the Tigers have faced a particularly arduous initiation to their new home.
Missouri’s SEC debut was wrought with adversity, starting in the spring when explosive quarterback James Franklin was shelved with a shoulder injury. Missouri already lost talented running back Henry Josey to a “one-in-a-million” knee injury late season when Franklin was injured. The quarterback has never looked quite the same since returning, and today against Florida’s stout defense had a particularly bad effort.
Franklin’s struggles would be less noticeable had the Tiger defense not risen up to virtually shut out the anemic Gator offense. But every opportunity Missouri had to seize momentum slipped away with a turnover. The once explosive rushing ability Franklin exhibited a season ago was hindered by his understandable hesitation. Reading the Gator coverage proved difficulty.
Adjusting to the SEC is proving a monumental task for Gary Pinkel’s program. Two James Franklins provide maps for the Tigers’ future. Missouri needs a fully healthy quarterback James Franklin to captain the offense, while the surprising success of Vanderbilt’s second year head coach exhibits the resolve needed from the top to compete with the physical and talented rosters in the SEC.