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Saturday October 8, 2011Brissett Earns Gators' Respect In First Career Start

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

BATON ROUGE, La. – Jacoby Brissett didn’t get a win in his first career start, but he got a good story that he can tell for years to come.

Some day he can tell his grandkids that on a warm October afternoon at Tiger Stadium, he made his first college appearance against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

He can tell them that he became only the fifth true freshman quarterback to ever start a game for the Gators – and first in school history to take his first college snap as the starter.

He can tell them he threw his first career touchdown pass to Andre Debose, a 65-yard heave that showed off the strong arm that his coaches and teammates have talked about since Brissett arrived.

Maybe Brissett will skip telling them the final score – Florida lost 41-11 – but he can tell them that under the strenuous circumstances, getting out of Death Valley in one piece was a victory in itself.

“I have to give him props. I think he played really well, especially for the environment, the situation he was put in,’’ said teammate Trey Burton, who shared snaps with Brissett on Saturday. “We all have is back. He is just going to get better from here on out.’’

Brissett’s climb from fourth-string quarterback to starter in less than a month was a confluence of several factors, most notably the injury to starter John Brantley in last week’s loss to Alabama.

With Brantley out, fellow true freshman Jeff Driskel appeared on track to make his first career start Saturday. Driskel played in four of the first five games and replaced Brantley against Alabama.

However, Driskel suffered an ankle injury late in the game and was hobbled during preparation for LSU, opening the door for Brissett. The 6-foot-3, 239-pound quarterback from Palm Beach Dwyer recently moved ahead of redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy on the depth chart.

Brissett was unavailable for comment afterward – Florida coach Will Muschamp does not allow freshmen to speak to the media – but his coach was pleased with the way Brissett responded under strenuous circumstances against an LSU defense ranked in the top 10 nationally.

“I thought he was solid and I thought under the circumstances against a good football team defensively, [tough] field position in the first half,’’ Muschamp said. “We were backed up a lot. I think he is going to be a really good football player for us.’’

Brissett finished 8-for-14 for 94 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. With Brissett lacking any game experience, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis dialed the game plan back significantly and added a package of plays for Burton out of the wildcat formation.

Brissett threw a lot of short passes early in the game before opening it up some in the second half, the highlight coming on his 65-yard scoring strike to Debose that trimmed LSU’s lead to 27-11 after a 2-point conversion near the end of the third quarter.

However, Brissett was picked off twice and showed some of the signs of inexperience you might expect. The Gators quickly fell into a 14-0 hole in the first quarter when their first two drives failed to muster a first down.

Florida’s initial first down came on a Burton sneak on fourth-and-1 from UF’s 28. Burton, who was part of UF’s three-man quarterback rotation a year ago, was used there on Saturday to help ease Brissett into the lineup.

“We felt like we had a package for him and we felt like we could execute and execute well,’ ’Muschamp said. “I thought for the most part he did a nice job. I’m very pleased with that.’’

Burton was 1-for-2 passing for six yards and rushed five times for seven yards. Running back Chris Rainey also took snaps from the wildcat.

But it was Brissett who got the nod to start once Driskel was unable to play. While he didn’t get a win, Brissett did seem to earn his teammates’ respect.

“Jacoby did a great job,’’ linebacker Lerentee McCray said. “On defense we weren’t able to stop them a couple of times, but he did a great job. You can’t ask more out of a freshman in a big game and stepping into play.’’

Meanwhile, Muschamp said the plan moving forward at quarterback is to re-evaluate Driskel this week in practice and continue to monitor Brantley’s injury. It remains uncertain when the fifth-year senior will be able to return.

The Gators’ road through October next stops at Auburn.

“John will be out of the game more than likely,’’ Muschamp said. “I’ll let you know Monday for sure but I’d imagine he would be. Jeff may be back. We need to re-evaluate where we are on the offensive side of the ball and what we need to do to be successful.’’

 

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