GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – John Brantley’s night started with the kind of pass that Florida fans have waited for all season from the senior quarterback.
Brantley dropped back on Florida’s second play from scrimmage, firmly planted his feet and threw a perfect 65-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose. The scoring strike had Ben Hill Griffin Stadium shaking on its foundation.
Brantley’s night ended much quieter as a hushed stadium watched as trainers helped Brantley to the locker room near the end of the first half. Brantley suffered what Gators head coach Will Muschamp termed a “lower leg’’ injury.
TV replays showed trainers looking at Brantley’s right knee and ankle. Brantley was clearly in pain after being sacked on third down by Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw with 11 seconds left before halftime. He remained down on the field for a few minutes until trainers took him to the locker room to be examined.
There was no update on Brantley’s condition immediately after the game.
His loss clearly affected the Gators’ offense in Saturday’s 38-10 loss to No. 3-ranked Alabama.
“When we lost John, that took the wind out of our sails a little bit as far as some of the things we were doing in the run game,’’ Muschamp said. “You need to stay balanced versus that team.’’
The Gators trailed 24-10 at halftime, one of Alabama’s touchdowns coming on Upshaw’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown that put the Crimson Tide in front 17-10 early in the second quarter. Upshaw was engaged up front with Gators offensive lineman Xavier Nixon and when he bounced off the block, he stepped in front of Brantley’s pass to Trey Burton and raced the other way for the score.
Until his injury, Upshaw’s pick was the only bad moment for Brantley in one of his better halves as Florida’s starting quarterback. Brantley was 11-for-16 for 190 yards when he was injured, showing good accuracy on several downfield throws. With true freshman Jeff Driskel running the offense in the second half, Florida managed only 46 yards of total offense as Alabama defeated the Gators for the third consecutive time.
“I thought John played really well,’’ Muschamp said. “He threw the ball extremely well. He converted third downs against a good defense. He had that deep ball to Andre.’’
Driskel finished 2-for-6 for 14 yards against an Alabama defense ranked second in the country entering the game.
Brantley remained on his teammates’ minds following the loss. Muschamp said Brantley was in the trainer’s room and did not go to the hospital following the injury.
“We obviously have concern for him and hope he’s doing all right,’’ offensive lineman Dan Wenger said. “It’s kind of one of those things when someone goes down, we’ve got to realize we have to get together and go onto the next play and whoever is in, be behind him.’’
Running back Chris Rainey said Brantley remained composed on the field after Upshaw’s hit twisted his knee and leg awkwardly.
“He wasn’t crying,’’ Rainey said. “It looked to me like it wasn’t that bad. I hope he’s all right.’’
“It hurt us when he went down, but we’ve got enough confidence in Driskel,’’ defensive tackle Jaye Howard said. “He’s a great player. We know that he is capable of playing out there.’’
While it remains uncertain when or if Brantley will return to the lineup, Muschamp wasn’t prepared to answer questions about any offensive changes until he knows the severity of Brantley’s injury.
He said the coaching staff will discuss the situation more in-depth on Sunday when they have more information.
“We’ll go through that and make the best decisions for our football team,’’ Muschamp said. “We’ll find out a lot about our football team on Monday and how we respond to the situation.’’