Dooley: Murphy saves day for UF

Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) celebrates with Florida Gators wide receiver Solomon Patton (83) after scoring a touchdown against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday Sept. 21, 2013 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Tennessee 31-17. (Matt Stamey/Staff photographer)

The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 9:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 10:32 p.m.

He likes it here.

That’s why Tyler Murphy stayed when so many quarterbacks would have left.

He likes it here.

“He’s built a home here,” said receiver Quinton Dunbar. “He’s afraid to leave. He has too many friends here.”

In a me-first world, Murphy was so desperate to contribute last year he volunteered for scout team duties. Quarterbacks came and went like a blur. Five quarterbacks had taken snaps at Florida since he arrived, and he wasn’t one of them.

Instead of taking his ball and going home, he waited for his chance. The first opportunity came in the preseason when Jeff Driskel’s appendectomy gave Murphy more than a week of repetitions with the first team. The second came after Miami when he got some more reps while Driskel nursed a sore left knee.

Each time, he took advantage. And when the unthinkable happened Saturday against Tennessee — Driskel’s season ending only nine quarters into the season — Murphy was more ready than any of us thought he could be.

“(Driskel’s) a good friend of mine,” Murphy said. “You never want to see a guy go down. I was hoping it wasn’t anything serious.”

Suddenly, it was his time.

There were some mistakes during a first half that looked like the two teams were auditioning for “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” But there were plenty of big plays and 218 yards of total offense that saved the day for a Florida football team that appeared headed for a second straight disaster.

Murphy’s Law owned the first half. Murphy’s Karma won the second.

Because this fourth-year junior stayed at UF, Florida’s season still has a pulse. It’s ugly behind him with no quarterbacks who have ever taken a college snap. But the perseverance of Tyler Murphy saved Florida on a steamy Saturday in The Swamp.

“It was in the back of my mind that I might never play,” he said. “People wanted me to change positions. I like playing quarterback. I had people telling me to transfer. It’s something I considered. But my dad encouraged me to stay.”

He lined up at wide receiver in a game last year. He has held for field goals and extra points.

Now, he’s the Gator Nation’s quarterback.

“I never really pictured me standing here at the podium,” he said during interviews after the game.

Who would have dreamed he would be trending on Twitter on Saturday?

“I don’t know what that means,” coach Will Muschamp said. “I hope that’s good.”

Florida’s hopes now rest with a quarterback who recruited Florida rather than the other way around. As a senior quarterback in Wethersfield, Conn., Murphy was committed to Temple but sent tapes to Florida.

When Urban Meyer and Steve Addazio called, he thought someone was pulling a prank on him.

When they offered him a scholarship, he was bowled over.

“It was a blessing,” Murphy said.

There were three quarterbacks ahead of him the first year. There were three quarterbacks ahead of him his second year. Last year, there were only two.

“It was tough sitting on the sidelines,” he said. “But I’ve never been afraid of competition.”

He knew he was getting better. As the second-team quarterback, he got more chances to show it. Murphy is one of those film study freaks who immediately watches video of practice as soon as practice is over.

“He prepares himself like a starter,” Dunbar said. “You go in there any time of day and he’s in the film room.”

Against Tennessee, Murphy made some nifty scrambles and some accurate throws. He scored once and threw a short pass that turned into a 52-yard touchdown because Solomon Patton is turning into a playmaker.

But where Murphy was at his best was not with his feet or his arm but his poise. In front of 90,000 people on national TV, he directed two long second-half drives that pretty much put the game away.

“It’s one thing when you get thrust in there and another when you have time (at halftime) to think about it,” Muschamp said.

Fortunately for Florida, Murphy was ready when he had to be. Fortunately for Florida, he’s a patient young man.

Fortunately for Florida, he likes it here.

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