Mornhinweg manages offense in first action

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The redshirt freshman knew the plan. The Gators didn't want to put the ball in Skyler Mornhinweg's hands and let him decide the game with his arm. So they ran it. Florida kept the ball on the ground 41 times on Saturday while letting Mornhinweg throw 13 passes.

Only two of those 13 passes came in the first half, and they were completed for a combined eight yards. The first one came on a quick receiver screen to freshman Ahmad Fulwood, and the second came on a third-and-nine where the Florida offensive staff rolled Mornhinweg out of the pocket to his right, allowing him to hit fullback Gideon Ajagbe for a five-yard reception.

The redshirt freshman knew the game plan going in. His first collegiate snap and start would come in front of a season-high crowd of 83,853 at Williams-Brice Stadium, and the coaches didn't want to put too much on him.

"I love throwing the ball, but I've got great confidence in Coach Pease and his game plan," Skyler Mornhinweg said. "Whatever it takes to win the game, that's what we've gotta do."

The game plan was different than most this year. The Gators were creative in the run game, finding different looks to get the ball to Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown. They implemented the screen game for a 28-yard reception to Brown, converting third-and-eight situation and setting the Gators up deep in South Carolina territory.

When the Gators simply handed the ball off to a running back or used a direct snap, the banged up offensive line was still able to create holes and give the running backs space to work. Florida rushed for 200 yards on 41 carries, paced by a career-high 96 yards by Taylor. The open holes and running lanes didn't surprise Mornhinweg.

"That's what we expected," Mornhinweg said. "We expect that we're going to win, be physical and dominate every game. That's what we expected."

With some advice from his father Marty, the current offensive coordinator of the New York Jets, Mornhinweg made it through a sleepless Friday night of anticipation. His dad gave him some help and words of encouragement to try making the process easier.

"Keep your head up, take care of the ball," Mornhinweg said, running through his dad's comments. "Obviously I gotta do a better job of that."

When the Gators fell behind five points with 2:16 remaining, the run-heavy game plan wasn't going to cut it. Florida had to open up the playbook and allow Mornhinewg to throw. After starting the drive with an incompletion, he hit three straight passes for a total of 26 yards.

Mornhinweg was flushed from the pocket on the next snap, and instead of throwing it away on first down, he forced a throw down the field that was intercepted by South Carolina cornerback Jimmy Legree.

"I've got to make a better decision," Mornhinweg said. "I've got to throw the ball away. That's on me."?

It wasn't the best situation to throw a redshirt freshman onto the field, but Tyler Murphy's shoulder sprain made it necessary. Murphy's status remains in doubt for the remainder of the season, and while Muschamp doesn't expect the injury to be season-ending, there is a chance Mornhinweg will be called on to start next Saturday against Georgia Southern.

"Very proud of him," Muschamp said. "I just told him to cut it loose and have fun. We weren't going to put a lot on him as far as asking him to do a bunch of things. We gave them some different looks. I thought Brent and the staff did a good job of putting ourselves in position to move the ball, and we did. We had them off balance, especially the first two drives going down and getting points.

"We were able to eat the clock and move the ball and follow the script, so to speak, of what we need to do to be successful. I thought he did a really good job of managing."

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