Defying Murphy's Law

For four quarters in their last game and the first quarter on Saturday, the Florida Gators could have lived by the adage of Murphy's Law. The current rendition of the saying goes ‘anything that can go wrong, will go wrong'.

Florida dominated Miami in every aspect of the game, but kept turning the ball over and gave the game away. Against Tennessee, it started out much the same, one shot to the foot at a time. Although some form of the saying ‘anything that can go wrong, will go wrong' has been around for generations before, one depiction of the phrase was first noted as Murphy's law by United States Air Force Colonel John Paul Stapp who was befuddled and maddened by a piece of malfunctioning equipment that would never work correctly and caused a myriad of issues with whatever he was working on at the time.

So, how appropriate is it that we can use that phrase on the Florida offense that we have seen in five of the last eight quarters of college football.

In the five quarters of play that included the entire Miami game and the first quarter of the 31-17 Tennessee win, Florida amassed 483 yards of offense and had but 19 points to show for it. At the same the two opponents racked up a flimsy 232 yards, but 28 points.

The Florida offense has us been that way. Too many turnovers, they had 6 in the five quarters, one resulted In an interception for a touchdown, another resulted in Miami getting the ball inside the Florida 10 yard line.

So how do you fix it? Call on Murphy.

Junior quarterback Tyler Murphy hasn't thrown a pass in the four years he has been on campus at Florida. He has bided his time, watching younger guys pass him on the depth chart. He's not a Colonel, but he might be a team captain soon.

If you watched the game against Tennessee or have read about it since, Tyler Murphy is certainly ingrained in your mind by now as a real hero in the contest on Saturday. Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel who has been exposed for a lot of the issues early in the year, was hurt on a third down play that he threw for an interception that was returned for a touchdown and an early 7-0 Tennessee lead. An extra point and kick off later and Murphy would enter the game.

It wasn't a perfect start. But, Murphy made two plays in his first drive that gave people hope. On his first third-down attempt, he rolled right and quickly found Quinton Dunbar for 9 yards, passing the first down marker by three yards. The Gators willing to grind the game away at this point found themselves at 3rd and 5 three plays later. Murphy drops back on the play, eludes all-SEC linebacker A.J. Johnson from a sack and scrambles for 8 yards before sliding to safety.

Staying ‘on track', Florida gets four tough yards from Mack Brown making it 2nd and 6 before, Murphy's Law strikes again. Two consecutive false start penalties on the offensive line and the Gators have an unmanageable 3rd and 16 at their own 45 before punting a play later.

The Gators get another break, but still down 7-0. On the Vols ensuing drive, Florida BUCK Dante Fowler forces a fumble of freshman quarterback Nathan Peterman and the ball is recovered at the Volunteer 6 yard line. A touchdown seemingly handed to Murphy and the offense from a defense that keeps on giving.

But, Murphy's Law strikes again. ‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong'.

A muffed snap exchange between center Jonotthan Harrison and Murphy put the ball on the ground and luckily for the Gators guard Max Garcia was able to land on it. These things will happen with a new quarterback, but this team of any can never look a gift horse in the mouth.

The Gators would settle for a 27 yard field goal two plays later.

It was as if a curse had been put on an offense for five quarters. Some very good play mixed with some devastating ones that completely nullified a lot of the good that was done.

The Gators' defense was operating on Fowler's Law on Saturday. Dante Fowler was running crazy in the backfield all game and causing turnovers. On the first play of the second quarter, Fowler and his line mates got pressure on Peterman again and forced an errant throw into the middle of several Gators and the ball bounced up for sophomore Brian Poole to give the ball back to his team.

It didn't take long for the entire mood of the offense, the team, and seemingly Gator Nation to change. On 2nd and 6, Murphy took a short shotgun snap and threw the ball laterally toward the sideline. The ball seemed forever in the air, but got to senior receiver Solomon Patton. Patton made a couple of moves, got to the outside edge of the field and raced 52 yard for a touchdown.

It was the longest touchdown pass of the season for Florida. It was the first time a receiver really made a move on a defender or two or five and raced to the end zone. It has been something that was missing so far this season. Oh, it was good to see. The Gators were now up 10-7.

The throw was behind the line of scrimmage, but a scary one to call. You can see the difference in a delivery from Murphy and one from Driskel. The latter fires it in there fast and almost impossible for a defender to come up and grab. Murphy is a softer passer and the danger is a defensive back playing wide breaking for the ball and going untouched the other way.

But, this staff had confidence in Murphy making that play. That says a lot and was no surprise to Harrison. The senior center respects his new leader for staying the course as a guy that needs to be ready to jump in at any time.

"The good thing about Murphy is that as a backup he was completely in-tune and completely aware of the entire offensive scheme," Harrison said following the game. "That is what makes him such a great player. He is real knowledgeable and has football intelligence. He is out there and real selfless. The spotlight was usually on Driskel and he was just out there learning and absorbing. He just put everything together out there on the field."

The defense did their part again a series later holding the Vols to minus two yards and a punt. But Murphy's Law seemed to strike again.

Nerves have to be big for a guy that is throwing a football for the first time in his college career and with close to 90,000 fans in the stands anticipating his every move. There is a lot going on in every snap, so some misfires should be expected.

On 2nd and 6 and approaching midfield, a miscommunication between Murphy and Harrison saw the ball snapped right into an unaware Murphy's face mask, fumbled to the ground and recovered by Tennessee.

Not over that hump just yet.

That defense did their thing again holding Tennessee to just minus nine yards this time and forcing another punt.

And yet again, Murphy's Law strikes. After four plays running the ball from their own six yard line to the 29, a holding penalty set them back, and yet another fumble, this time from running back Matt Jones. ‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong'.

Except on defense, where three plays later, Florida defensive tackle Darious Cummings reeled in a ball that slipped out of Peterman's hand and rambled 30 yards to the Tennessee 40 yard line, setting up the offense once again.

With 3:40 seconds left in the half. The Gators were working the running game down the field. Trying to protect their new quarterback and seemingly by designing running wide an awful lot and throwing side to side. This kept the defense running laterally on every play, a defense at Tennessee that has zero depth at the time.

The drive consisted of six runs and a short pass, took 3:03 off the clock and ended with a Mack Brown touchdown untouched on the right side. Murphy ran twice in the drive for 15 yards and certainly helped keep the attention of the outside defense allowing Brown to score. Gators now led 17-10.

Murphy was settling down and proving himself as a leader, even without running the ball. The offense was settling down around him and didn't commit penalties or turnovers. This was something different.

The 3rd quarter started with Tennessee changing quarterbacks and getting a little momentum after driving the field and getting three points on a defense that hadn't allowed them to score all game. Only up by a touchdown, the Murphy led Gators threw out all of the Murphy's Law stuff, and kept their momentum from the close of the 2nd quarter as well.

11 plays, 79 yards, and a touchdown were highlighted by 20 yards rushing, two 3rd down conversions, and a 31 pass completion to junior Quinton Dunbar.

Six plays later the Gator defense does their job again and forces a punt.

This time from their own 16 yard line, the Gators drive 84 yards on 11 plays consisting of two 3rd down conversions including the last play which was a seven yard quarterback keeper by Murphy. In the series he hit Patton for 12 yards and Dunbar for 20 yards.

Three consecutive drives, 203 yards, 21 points. That will change the whole mindset of your team. And Murphy was the one that directed it.

"Man down, man up," Harrison said. "That was our complete reaction. Nobody freaked out or anything like that. As soon as someone goes down, someone else's number is getting called and you have to be ready. That is what Coach Muschamp prepares us for.

"I am sure it probably blew people's minds. But a lot of us have had faith in Murphy for a long time. We had faith in Driskel, but also in Murphy."

Cummings chimed in as well.

"Coach is always telling us ‘when your number is called, be able to go in and play'.," Cummings said. "That is exactly what he did. He is a great quarterback and I think he showed that today. We are going to take it for what it is and keep going."

By this point in the game, the score was 31-10 and with the defense playing like they were, the Gator staff was ready to call it a day and just get to the end of the game. Florida threw one pass the entire fourth quarter.

Nobody knows what the big picture holds for Florida. Despite the convincing win, the Gators fell a spot in the polls, likely due to the uncertainty at quarterback.

Whether that is deserved or not is up for debate, but something seemed clear by the end of the game. Florida seemed surer of itself on offense with the new guy at the helm. For whatever reason they just seemed to roll out there and perform, especially when he settled down after being thrown in there rather quickly. And save for the few miscues from the butterflies early after his entrance, Murphy showed he can run the ship that is the Florida offense.

According to Harrison, nobody has worked harder with less reward than Murphy.

"Execution is never easy, but you must prepare in order to execute and that is all Murphy has done for the last couple of years," Harrison said. "It is mental preparation, mental reps, practice reps, whatever… now it is allowing him to execute."

"We've been here for so long and I have just been able to sit back and watch Tyler Murphy work. He really is a phenomenal player. He is real selfless, and that is his greatest attribute I like about him. He doesn't need attention, he just does his job and executes what he needs to execute."

Include this writer in those that didn't give Murphy much of a chance to contribute to this program. Include this writer among those that also sees a glimmer of hope that the kind of spark Murphy can provide and confidence he can instill in his teammates is something that could change the outlook of the offense and this entire team for that matter.

That is a big leap there, but one that his teammates believe in.

"We have all faith and trust in Tyler Murphy," Harrison said. "He has been here longer than Driskel and he is so in-tuned with what is going on."

As for Murphy's Law, well it could have a whole new meaning before all is said and done.

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