Florida wins matchup of untested QBs

Florida wins matchup of untested QBs

September 22nd, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - College

Florida wide receiver Solomon Patton (83) runs past Tennessee defensive back Brian Randolph (37) after a reception during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The stat sheet will show that the Tennessee quarterback the Florida defense didn't expect to see Saturday afternoon inside the Gators' Swamp finished with 5 passing yards, two interceptions, a fumble and minus-3 yards rushing.

That same stat sheet will show that the Florida quarterback the Volunteers' defense didn't expect to see finished with 134 passing yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and 86 rushing yards with a second TD, fumbling once.

"This is the guy that gets the game ball," said Florida coach Will Muschamp said of redshirt junior reserve QB Tyler Murphy, who'll start for the Gators now that Jeff Driskel broke his leg on Florida's second series of the game.

"For a backup guy that takes about one-fourth of the reps during the week to do that ... that's very difficult to do, and he did it very well."

First-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones obviously hoped his decision to start redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman at quarterback over junior Justin Worley would pay similar dividends.

"He had a great week of preparation," Jones said of Peterman. "Everything is calculated. Every snap is evaluated."

Unfortunately for the UT defense, the Vols' preparation on that side of the ball never evaluated the prospect of Driskel going down and being replaced by the quicker, more elusive Murphy.

"We didn't spend much time on that little quarterback," said UT linebacker A.J. Johnson. "We tried to keep him contained, but he made some great plays."

Go back 12 years to the 2001 SEC championship game against LSU in the Georgia Dome, and a similar nightmare unfolded for the Big Orange. Bayou Bengals starting quarterback Rohan Davey went down with an injury. Then-LSU coach Nick Saban turned to backup Matt Mauck, who ran for two touchdowns in a 31-20 Tigers win.

With the Gators and Vols both coming off losses, Saturday hardly carried the hype of that game, but it did again illustrate how the wrong reserve at QB can turn a possible loss into a win, or in UT's case, the other way around.

"He added another wrinkle," Jones said of Murphy. "He's a great athlete. We didn't do a good job of containing the football."

The Vols, of course, can go back to Worley, who generated 189 yards of offense and 10 points in the final half after Peterman had overseen 31 total yards and no offensive points in the opening half -- UT's seven points came on a 62-yard interception return by freshman Devaun Swafford against Driskel.

Said Jones of Peterman: "Everyone wants to point to the quarterback. But in the first half we didn't do a good job of protecting the quarterback."

Across the field, in the winners's locker room, Muschamp said of Murphy: "We told the football team in the locker room that [Murphy] is a great example of a guy who showed that when your number is called at the University of Florida, you better respond at a high level."

At Tennessee, at least at quarterback, that apparently remains a work in progress.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com