GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Will Muschamp knew the play was much worse than it even looked -- and it looked really bad.
On the third series of the game, Tennessee defensive back Devaun Swafford had just taken an interception back 62 yards for a touchdown to stick the Florida Gators in an early hole Saturday at the "Swamp." Not good.
Then he saw quarterback Jeff Driskel on the ground and motioning toward the UF sideline.
“Jeff is as tough a kid as I’ve been around,” Muschamp said. “When he looked to the sidelines and waved, I knew it was not good.”
Driskel, the junior quarterback from Oviedo, Fla., suffered a broken right leg on the play and will have to undergo season-ending surgery.
“It’s sad,” senior wide receiver Trey Burton said. “I feel for him.”
Driskel had a Tennessee defensive lineman clinging to his ankles when he tried to force a pass to Burton on the Volunteers sideline. As he fell forward throwing the ball, he twisted to the ground and immediately grabbed for his leg.
Just like that, the Florida offense -- and the 2013 season -- fell to fourth-year junior Tyler Murphy, who entered Saturday’s game having never attempted a college pass. Murphy performed admirably (134 yards and a touchdown passing; 84 yards and a touchdown rushing) in leading the Gators to a win they had to have.
For the record, UF’s new backup is redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, who has never played a college snap.
"Obviously, there was some adversity in the game," Muschamp said.
Losing a starting quarterback can lead to a season of adversity. Instead of bemoaning the situation, Muschamp threw out the “one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity” line after the game. That doesn't mean he wasn't heartbroken for Driskel, who was the quarterback of record for an 11-2 team that played in a BCS game last season and spent the offseason as one of the team’s leaders and point man on offensive workouts.
“I hurt for him, hurt for us,” Muschamp said. “This is going to hurt us. Jeff’s a guy who’s won a lot of ballgames for us here. I’m disappointed for him.”
The two shared a brief moment at halftime before the Gators, behind Murphy, returned to the field and put away the Vols behind an error-free second half on offense (versus three first-half turnovers) and some stellar defensive play (UF forced six UT turnovers).
The interception, though, was a tough way for Driskel to exit his junior year. He performed so well in preseason camp, even after missing the first week due to an emergency appendectomy, but struggled two weeks ago in committing three turnovers in a 21-16 loss at Miami.
Driskel wanted badly to atone for that performance.
Now his final season numbers will read 42 completions in 61 attempts (68.9 percent) for 477 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and two fumbles.
“It was really disappointing. He’s given a lot to this program,” senior center Jon Harrison said. “I would never wish or hope that on anybody. I didn’t even know it was that serious until I saw him in the boot. I wish him a speedy recovery.”