Florida Gators’ starting quarterback Jeff Driskel was lost early in the game on what turned out to be a season-ending ankle injury, but backup Tyler Murphy stepped in and led Florida to a 31-17 win against the Tennessee Volunteers to open up Southeastern Conference play.
Florida fell behind early, when a Driskel pass, on what ended up being his last play of the season, was intercepted by Devaun Swafford and returned 62 yards for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Tennessee. Florida was behind, without its starting quarterback and forced to rely on its seldom-used backup. But, Murphy responded better than anyone could have expected , leading the Gators on a total of five scoring drives.
Murphy was calm, poised and efficient with both his legs and through the air. Other than a fumble that hit off his facemask on a case of miscommunication between him and center Jonotthan Harrison, Murphy did not appear to miss a beat when he entered the game for Driskel. He finished 8-of-14 for 134 yards and one touchdown and added 10 carries for 84 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
It was the most significant action Murphy, a redshirt junior, had seen throughout his four-year career. Entering Saturday’s game the former two-star recruit had appeared in just six games for the Gators and his only career pass attempt came on a two-point conversion attempt just a couple of weeks ago. Now, he’s Florida’s starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
Murphy played well, but the game was not without its ups and downs for Florida, who committed three turnovers. However, the defense put up yet another strong showing, forcing six turnovers of its own. Tennessee opted to go with redshirt freshman Nathan Peterman at quarterback, and he looked completely overwhelmed in his first career start, committing three turnovers in just the first half. He was eventually benched in favor of Justin Worley, who didn’t fare all that better.
Next week the Gators will travel to Kentucky to take on the Wildcats in what will be the first start of Murphy’s career.