Florida Football: Don't Judge Tyler Murphy on One Game

Allison BankoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

Sep 21, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) runs with the ball during the second half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Since the moment Tyler Murphy took his first snap on Saturday, the state of Florida's quarterbacks has emerged as one of the most sensationalized topics of the season. 

On the surface, it's a story that tugs on the heartstrings. 

A backup quarterback seizes his chance to shine after the starter tragically goes down for the season. The two-star recruit from Connecticut who has been in the shadows his entire college career gets the spotlight, leading his struggling team to victory. A humble guy just looking to do his part.  

Everyone loves an underdog.

While Florida's 31-17 win versus Tennessee in The Swamp served as the perfect storyboard for the heartwarming tale, too many people are pushing for a happy ending that's just not there. Arguments that Murphy should've been the starter over Jeff Driskel from the get-go are completely unwarranted at this point.  

That's not to say Murphy didn't have an impressive debut. Against UT, the redshirt junior completed eight of his 14 passes for 134 yards, had a 52-yard touchdown and rushed 10 times for 84 yards. Murphy's 28-yard rush at the tail-end of the third quarter was the longest since Driskel's 31-yard run versus FSU last year.

One problem: The game was against the Vols—the 2013 Vols. Saturday was not a benchmark game for the Gators, and it hasn't been in a while. The contest doesn't bear the weight it's being given. 

Look at Driskel's performance last year against Tennessee. As a sophomore, he went 14 for 20 for 219 yards (a career best), notched two touchdowns and completed his career-high 81 rushing yards on eight carries. Driskel's 75-yard TD pass in Knoxville stands as the longest of his career. His passer rating versus the Vols last year was 195 which made it the highest for a UF quarterback on the road in a conference game since Tim Tebow versus Kentucky in '07 (202.7).

Sep 7, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel (6)  prior to the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Driskel got SEC Player of the Week for his successes against Tennessee last year. 

In 2012, the Vols were ranked. They were at No. 23 while the Gators sat at No. 19. This year, Tennessee isn't in the rankings. Saturday, Murphy was up against the 90th-ranked defense in the country while he has been practicing against the third.  

This game continues to be the ideal matchup for Florida's fresh quarterbacks. They get to flex their skills against an SEC team that doesn't pack a punch while looking like the hero. 

Using the win over Tennessee as an argument that Murphy is a better quarterback than Driskel after seeing him play three quarters of THIS game is ridiculous. Florida's staff wasn't overlooking Murphy the past three years, including this one. 

"Jeff had earned the opportunity to be the starter here...As far as his performance in camp, I thought it was outstanding," said Muschamp following the win Saturday. 

Driskel absolutely earned it. He lead the Gators to a Top 10 finish last season with 11 wins, seven of which were SEC victories. That shouldn't be cheapened by a poor performance at Miami and a solid performance of a once-backup against Tennessee. 

OK, so Driskel had some mistakes against Miami, and now, he's done for the season with his leg injury. There's no QB controversy. It's Murphy's time. 

"There's a lot of people that have been able to watch Tyler Murphy work and he really is just a phenomenal player," teammate and offensive lineman Jon Harrison said Saturday. "He's real selfless and that's the greatest attribute I love about him."

It's fantastic that Murphy get as much support as he can with his new role at starter. He seems like an extraordinary guy who has a lot of potential, passion and talent. Murphy certainly flexed that on Saturday. However, using Tennessee as a benchmark game to rip Driskel and put Murphy on a pedestal is ridiculous.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first hand.