The 2011 Independence Bowl was convincingly won by the Missouri Tigers late Monday night.
Missouri claimed a 41-24 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels, after Mizzou quarterback James Franklin (above) ran in two touchdowns and threw another to clinch the Tigers’ second ever Independence Bowl.
Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner had a productive game himself, throwing for 317 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, but the UNC team was let down by a sloppy defense and a running game that yielded only 36 yards. However, interim Tar Heels coach Everett Withers was in no doubt what caused his team’s loss. Reflecting on the performance of Franklin, he said:
“He’s just such a dynamic guy running and throwing that you have to respect both. I always count the quarterback as an extra running back in the spread and that’s exactly what he was.”
The result marks a disappointing end to a season that began brightly for North Carolina. After soaring to a 5-1 record early on, they lost five of their final seven games to finish 7-6, and were outclassed on Monday by a merciless Missouri unit. As well as Franklin’s virtuoso performance, Tigers’ Kendial Lawrence rushed for 108 yards. In stark contrast, UNC running back Giovani Bernard managed just 31 yards, well below his season average.
The Tar Heels opened the scoring, Renner finding Dwight Jones with a 22-yard touchdown pass. Missouri quickly responded with a 40-yard touchdown pass from receiver T.J. Moe to Wes Kemp, after a quick lateral from Franklin. They scored again late in the first quarter to take a 14-7 lead, after a 2-yard rush from Franklin.
The second quarter essentially killed the game, with the Tigers scoring two touchdowns and a field goal for an ominous 31-10 halftime lead. After that, 34-17 in the third quarter was as close as the scores got. Late in the third, Franklin produced a second touchdown run to nail down UNC’s coffin.
Perhaps inevitably, Franklin was named Most Valuable Player, having led the Tigers to 31 first-half points – an Independence Bowl record.