Brantley Shows Toughness in Defeat

The Florida Gators struggled through another football game on Saturday that ended with their second loss of the season and are clinging to hope for winning the SEC Eastern division. Junior quarterback John Brantley was battered and bruised coming into the game and took a beating during the game, but kept firing away. In the end it wasn‘t enough but was a gutsy performance for Brantley.

John Brantley was rumored to possibly not even play in the game due to an injury suffered in the loss to Alabama a week earlier. Florida head coach Urban Meyer thinks signal caller played through some tough pain, but knew he would.

"He was hurt," Meyer said shortly after the game. "I don't want to say it was cracked ribs, but some damage to his ribs. He fought his tail off, what you would expect from him. He's a tough nut.

"I expect that from Johnny. He's a tough dude. He's from a tough family and from a tough back ground. He's a competitive individual. He talked to the team at halftime and called the guys up in the huddle. If someone ever questions Johnny's toughness, that's incorrect. We just have to get better."

The rumors had it that Brantley had a broken thumb and four cracked ribs. While both of these proved to be untrue, there was certainly some apprehension in Gainesville this weekend. The fact is Brantley's injuries would have kept many in the training room and off the football field.

"There was never any doubt I would play," he said. "I knew since Sunday or Monday that I was going to be alright. (The ribs) are still banged up and nothing too serious. Thumb is just strained, real minor."

It was clear that LSU knew about the injuries to Brantley. They decided to blitz him and hit him as much as possible. In turn, Florida played a little cat and mouse game before kickoff, showing backup Trey Burton talking to the Florida coaches with his helmet on and Brantley standing yards behind with the headphones, not appearing to go in the game.

When the first play was called, Brantley was out there. He took a pounding with the blitzes and seemingly absent pass protection on the night. The constant pounding could have taken a toll.

"It wasn't really that bad," Brantley said. "The training staff did a real good job getting me treatment. My body felt real good during the game. They did blitz us a lot. We knew they would. We knew it was coming and things happen.

"It's a good defense and things happen when you play a good defense. We tried to figure out what they were doing. They blitzed us a lot. We tried to find a rhythm and I really can't explain it."

Brantley has slowly moved forward to try and be a team leader for the Gators. At halftime, Meyer said he gave a big speech. The kind of thing he has been looking for his signal caller to do. The Gators actually did drive the ball down to the LSU one yard line, but came away with no points after being backed up and missing a field goal.

"Since we were getting the ball I told our defense to keep fighting," Brantley said. "I knew that was a tough offense. I assured everyone we were going to take the ball right down and score, I was just trying to do everything I can."

One player that Brantley has grown comfortable with is senior receiver Carl Moore. Moore has become a very steady force on third downs for Brantley and had a huge one with a 51 yard reception on 3rd-and-8 from the Gators own 22-yard line and needing to drive for a touchdown.

"Carl has really come on this season," Brantley said. "He's a big play guy, he knows how to get open and he has great hands."

The Gators could have packed up their bags when they went down 26-14 just as the fourth quarter started. A huge kickoff return for a touchdown by freshman Andre Debose sparked the team and the second half and fourth quarter have been strong suits for the Gators in this tough offensive season.

"We keep fighting, that's what we do in the fourth quarter," Brantley said. "Sometimes the ball doesn't roll our way. We kept fighting and we just have to move on and fight on from here."

The Gators have lost two straight in the SEC, but still control their own destiny in the eastern division. Brantley knows they have to suck it up and keep going.

"The SEC is a crazy conference," he said. "If we put these two losses behind us, we have a really good chance to win the East."

If that is going to happen, it is more and more apparent that John Brantley is going to have to be allowed to make the plays to do so.
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