Dooley: Appleby's experience vs. Iowa huge plus


Published: Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 5:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at 5:07 p.m.

TAMPA - The sun beat down on Tampa Jesuit’s artificial turf field causing sweat beads to form on the foreheads of just about everybody at Florida’s bowl practice.

Just your typical Florida winter day.

“It’s pretty hot,” said quarterback Austin Appleby. “As long as I can keep my hand dry.”

Appleby had just finished another practice as Florida’s starting quarterback, a position where there is always plenty of heat whether it’s coming from Jonathan Allen, a grumpy fan base or members of the media.

This is a special week for the quarterback and an obvious storyline (why do you think I latched onto it?)

He will be playing his first bowl game in his last game of college football. In his freshman year at Purdue, the Boilermakers did make it to a bowl, so he received some swag even though he was redshirting the whole season.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “You go up to your room and there are new sweats and shorts. I’ve got a big duffel bag and I’m stockpiling stuff for sure.”

There is also this -- his first college football game came against Iowa and so will his last. As a redshirt freshman, he played a little against the Hawkeyes and did so again the following year. Last year, he came into the game in relief of a concussed David Blough and went 23-of-40 for 259 yards.

He knows Iowa. Iowa knows Appleby.

“He played pretty well against us last year quite frankly, so I'm not real enthusiastic about seeing him again,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “It's not like we've got a great memory from last year's game.”

Quipped Jim McElwain at the Wednesday news conference, “We put that game plan in.”

Appleby rallied Purdue to make it a game last season, but -- stop me if you’ve heard this one -- the Boilermakers lost.

On Monday, he faces the Hawkeyes for the first time without a headset in his personal yin and yang game.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said again. “Just to kind of take it all in from where I started to where I am. I threw my first touchdown pass against them and hopefully I’ll have a couple to end it.”

And there is also the fact that McElwain feels like Appleby gives Florida the best chance to win the Outback Bowl.

All of that has to be swirling around in his head as he gets ready to end his college career.

He came to Florida to play for championships and have a bowl week in the sun. He was the quarterback when Florida won the SEC East in Baton Rouge and will be the quarterback when the Gators hit the field Monday against a stingy Iowa defense.

He will be THE guy despite some knuckleheaded suggestions that McElwain pull off the redshirts from his freshmen quarterbacks to work on next season.

“I did read about that, by the way,” Ferentz said to McElwain. “I don't know who's giving that advice.”

Ouch. That would be me. I’ve seen the error of my logic.

“That’s all media,” Appleby said. “I don't read much of it and you guys do a great job but I answer to the guys in that locker room. Everything I’ve been told is I’m going to have the opportunity to win a game.”

But there is still an angry buzz floating around the quarterback as he finishes his rent-a-grad single season at UF. The interceptions against Alabama that doomed the Gators are still on the DVR in your heads. Teez Tabor was especially critical after the SEC Championship Game.

That game and the Florida State game the previous week are the two biggest reasons there is a lot of doubt heading into this game. Those games and Iowa’s defense.

“I’ve got a lot of deep respect for what they’re doing up there,” Appleby said.

His career stats vs. Iowa -- 30-of-52 for 338 yards, two touchdowns and one pick.

“They do what they do very well,” Appleby said.

But that was then and this is soon. Soon, he will take the field for the last time. Soon, he will try to do enough to allow Florida to win its last game and go into recruiting season with some momentum.

Soon, it will be all over.

Soon, the noise will stop.

“There wasn't any noise from the inside,” said McElwain.

Sorry about the racket.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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