GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As if Tyler Murphy didn’t know his life had turned upside down Saturday, the cell phone in his locker blowing up with messages from family and friends was post-game reminder.
“Just telling me I did a good job and stuff like that,” Murphy said Monday.
In soft-spoken, matter-of-fact way, Murphy confirmed the previous 48 hours had, indeed, been hectic. Going from little-known backup to starting quarterback at the University of Florida and helping lead a 31-17 victory over Tennessee can do that to a guy.
Much has changed for Murphy.
As for the Gators‘ offense, which lost starter Jeff Driskel to a season-ending broken right leg, not so much.
“There will be some throws he likes better than Jeff,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “But whatever the case may be, we will structure it that way.”
The process began Monday as the No. 20 Gators (2-1, 1-0) began preparations for Saturday’s date against the Kentucky Wildcats (1-2) in what will mark UF’s first Southeastern Conference road game of the season.
And Murphy’s first start.
Having five days to prepare for an opponent figures to put Murphy, the fourth-year junior from Wethersfield, Conn., in a more advantageous position than taking over cold as an emergency fill-in.
Conversely, the UK coaches and players will have five days to prepare for Murphy, who lacks the skill set, athleticism and experience of Driskel, but plays with a more measured and cautious manner that meshes nicely opposite a defense that currently ranks second in the country in total yards and rushing yards allowed.
Here’s a statistic: According to FootballStudyHall.com, the Gators’ offense snaps the ball once every 31.9 seconds, which ranks 124th out of 125 teams in the FBS (compared to BYU’s 17.8. which leads the nation, and Texas A&M’s 20.7, which leads the SEC).
That’s a pace that favors a quarterback trying to settle in.
“Certainly, being the starter, it is different,” Muschamp said of Murphy’s elevated role. “Knowing Tyler, he won’t approach it any differently from the standpoint of being the starter. He might have a few more butterflies here and there as far as starting the game, but other than that he’s a pretty calm, cool, collected guy as you saw on Saturday. He will handle it like a champion.”
Murphy will go into the game -- like he did against the Volunteers -- with the “Do Your Job” mantra the Gators have plastered throughout their south end zone weight room ringing between his ears.
In the Wildcats, he’ll face a defense ranked eighth in the SEC (367 yards per game), but next to last in stopping the run (185.7 ypg) compared to third in passing yards allowed (181.3) even after facing Louisville slinger Teddy Bridgewater.
The Gators will go to Lexington, Ky., looking to establish themselves on the ground, with Murphy part of that equation. Eventually, Murphy will be asked to make something happen through the air.
“I'll be anxious, but I'll get out there and maybe complete my first pass,” he said. “Once I hit [one], I think I'll be fine. But I don't think it will be as bad as it was this week."
Muschamp and UF players could not praise Murphy enough following UF’s victory. After taking over for Driskel in the first quarter, and trailing 7-0, Murphy completed eight of 14 passes for 134 yards for a touchdown and also ran 10 times for another 84 yards and a score.
Mixed in those numbers were a short completion on a wide receiver screen that Solomon Patton turned into a 52-yard touchdown and a deep-ball 31-yard completion on a great toe-tapping sideline snag from wideout Quinton Dunbar. Murphy also had a 28-yard run.
Now, with a week to game-plan with their new guy under center, offensive coordinator Brent Pease to tweak with some things and better cater to the plays and throws that accentuate what Murphy does best.
“As far as if it's just a simple diagonal curl, he may feel more comfortable with a different concept as opposed to what Jeff felt comfortable with,” Muschamp explained. “That's something that we work through the week and we see how he sees the coverage and how he feels with certain throws. He may feel better with routes moving away from him, moving to him, across the middle. Those are things that we've talked about.”
Something else that’s been discussed: a backup plan to this backup plan.
Redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, the son of former Detroit Lions head coach and current New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, is now UF’s No. 2 quarterback and will get about probably 25 percent of the practice repetitions with the first offense.
Tyler Murphy’s offense.
“I’m probably going to do a little bit more [studying] than I have been, but I’ve been preparing as if I was the starter for a long time now,” Murphy said. “Other than that, I don’t think much changes for me.”