AUBURN, Ala. — John Franklin III called his shot Saturday. Once he got his chance, it didn’t take him long to fulfill his own prophecy.
Throughout the Louisiana-Monroe game, Franklin talked with Auburn’s strength and conditioning coordinator. The conversation covered the same central thought: When Franklin got in, he was going to bust a big run.
Sure enough, when Franklin stepped in to relieve Sean White, it only took two plays before the junior college transfer — the Tigers’ unquestioned No. 2 quarterback — showcased his sub-4.3 speed with an 80-yard touchdown scamper to give Auburn a 49-7 advantage.
It was the longest play of Auburn’s 2016 season, and the second-longest rushing touchdown in program history.
“The end crashed. We knew the end was going to crash a lot this week. Coach told me before our game, ‘You’re going to have some chances to run,'” Franklin said after the win. “I’d been watching the ends crash all game, so I was like, ‘If you crash, I’m going to make you pay.’ He crashed, and I made him pay.”
But Franklin’s fun had just begun. And what he did on the next possession showed how dangerous Franklin can be in the SEC.
On third-and-13, he hit true freshman receiver Nate Craig-Myers on a beautiful touch pass along the sideline for a 39-yard score for Craig-Myers’ first college touchdown and the first passing score of his career.
Which of the two touchdowns felt better? No-brainer.
“Oh the pass, for sure,” Franklin said. “The run, that can happen on any play with me, to be honest with you. I like the pass better because you don’t get those too often. When it’s there, I like to take advantage.”
Franklin’s relief work came after another solid performance by White, who completed 14 of 17 passes for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Franklin isn’t entering games out of necessity, and he’s OK with that. But the opportunity to see the field for an extended period of time made for a relaxed postgame media session with the Auburn No. 2 quarterback.
The Last Chance U star just treasured his opportunity to do what he loves to do most — entertain.
“It felt good. Just to be going out there and playing in front of people, those are the moments I live for,” Franklin said. “I love to be in front of people and perform and put on a show for people. Just playing, not having to think, just going to play, is always a good feeling.”
For the viewing public, this was the first chance to see Franklin’s true capabilities. For Auburn’s players and staff, it was just another day watching their second-string quarterback do his thing.
“Honestly, we see it a lot in practice. He’s a very athletic guy, very fast, but once he sticks his foot in the dirt and gets going north and south, there are only a few people who are going to catch him,” running back Kerryon Johnson said. “For me, it’s not a surprise, but it was nice for other teams to see we have that option and just to see he can do it in a game with live defenders.”
There isn’t a quarterback battle, by any means. And Jeremy Johnson being the first person sprinting downfield to celebrate after Franklin’s 80-yard rush is one example of the tight-knit nature of the quarterback room despite the outside world’s desire to make it juicier than that.
Coach Gus Malzahn is just happy to have two QB options with two different skill sets.
“When needed, we’ll definitely have him. He’s getting better, and the more that he can get out there and play like he did today, that really helps him,” Malzahn said. “He brings a different dimension than Sean does, and I think it’s good to have both of them.”