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September 21, 2013

Driskel done for the season, Murphy leads the way

As soon as Will Muschamp looked up and saw Jeff Driskel crawling, he knew. The quarterback Muschamp has regularly called his toughest player doesn't grab his leg or wave for a trainer often, but 50 yards away from the end result of a touchdown pass to Tennessee cornerback Devaun Swafford, he did just that.

Driskel will have surgery on his broken right fibula Sunday morning. He will miss the remainder of the 2013 season.

"I'm disappointed for Jeff because he's worked extremely hard for this season," Muschamp said. "One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity."

That opportunity fell into the hands of redshirt junior Tyler Murphy. After three years of watching, Murphy threw his first collegiate pass Saturday afternoon in a 31-17 victory for No. 19 Florida. The pass went for a first down, and so the day Murphy has waited for got started.

Florida stuck heavily to the run during Murphy's early plays, even going against the Volunteers' No. 104 passing defense. It made sense. Murphy had watched for years for a reason and had never been treated as a legitimate option at quarterback. The simplest of passes changed that.

Murphy found wide receiver Solomon Patton out wide for a short screen pass. Patton turned it into a 52-yard touchdown. The nerves started to fade.

"I was able to eventually get comfortable," Murphy said.

Comfortable meant 8 of 14 passing for 134 yards and a touchdown. Maybe more impressive were Murphy's decisions on the run. Murphy became the Gators' most effective option in the running game, carrying the ball 10 times for 84 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown. Muschamp said after the game the staff will meet Sunday to determine how comfortable they are letting Murphy rack up carries. Redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg is now the Gators' backup quarterback.

Making numerous checks at the line and controlling the huddle, Murphy appeared to be in control of the offense from the time he entered the game. One season ago, he had volunteered to join the scout team when it became clear he would not get legitimate playing time.

"It's from years. I've been here five years and Murph came in the year after me," center Jonotthan Harrison said of his confidence in Murphy. "There aren't a lot of people who have been able to sit back and watch Murphy work. He really is a phenomenal player. He's real selfless and that's his greatest attribute. That's what I love about him."

That selflessness has kept Murphy at Florida despite friends and family telling him to transfer. Though lightly recruited, the Gators - specifically Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio - gave Murphy a chance when he sent film to UF and they offered him a scholarship. He had previously been committed to Temple. At Florida, he watched a line of players - John Brantley and Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett and childhood friend Jordan Reed and Trey Burton - play quarterback ahead of him. He thought about leaving but never pulled the trigger.

"I enjoy this school, and I have a lot of good friends here that I've become close with," Murphy said. "I'm not really afraid of competition. I wanted to stay here and compete."

He thought about the possibility of an entire career without an attempted pass until Saturday's chance came. It might have just been an ugly win against a bad team, but by the end, the student section was chanting Murphy's name. That hasn't happened in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since 2009.

"I told our team what a great example he is," Muschamp said. "There's not many guys like that in this society. Everybody wants it now. He's a guy that's worked extremely hard and he cashed in his opportunity today. We look forward to seeing him play the rest of the year."

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