No first game jitters for Del Rio

The Swamp ignited for the first game ever on Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday night when the 2016 version of the Florida Gators took the field. After a crowd mesmerizing tribute to Spurrier himself, it was finally game time. Fighting the rain, the Swamp was on their feet and ready to roll into the 2016 season, this year led by a new face.

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Two-time transfer Luke Del Rio ran out onto the field as starting quarterback for Florida’s debut against UMass. Del Rio said that he didn’t feel nervous, but he felt “juiced up” on his first play when he overthrew Antonio Callaway by about five yards.  Del Rio said he got pretty comfortable pretty quickly leading the Gators to a 24-7 win.

“I actually didn’t get nervous,” Del Rio said.  “I kind of surprised myself.  It was an awesome experience playing in The Swamp, you know, 92 thousand people.  I was looking forward to it for a long time.”

Del Rio has been in close competition with backup quarterback Austin Appleby since the Orange and Blue game this spring.  Florida’s head coach Jim McElwain even previously expressed how he was willing to throw in the two true freshmen Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks. McElwain said that after tonight he is confident in Del Rio and his performance solidified his decision to make him starting quarterback.

“I thought Luke did a pretty good job,” McElwain said.  “He took care of the ball, he put it where it was supposed to be.” 

After walking on at Alabama and sitting the bench at Oregon, Del Rio really hasn’t seen a lot of action before coming to the Gators.  He said it felt good to finally get some action and really get the full experience of the grit of the game.

“To be honest, it kind of feels good to get hit,” Del Rio said.  “Being on a scout team for a year, I just kind of wanted someone to light me up one play just to let me know what it feels like.”

Although it may feel good to get hit, Del Rio did acknowledge that he has to limit those hits. 

“I accept some of those as my fault.  The scrambling, I need to get rid of the ball quicker.  If nothing is open, just throw it away.  I end up throwing it away anyway and getting hit, why not just take the hit away and throw it away sooner?” 

Del Rio really seemed to play comfortably and he looked like a leader out on the field.  Coach McElwain said that his teammates really are confident in him.  Between a new comfortable quarterback and a new strong foot like Eddie Pineiro, Gator fans have a lot to be excited about. 

“You could see the sense of calm out there,” McElwain said.  “There wasn’t a lot of panic and that’s crediting a good quarterback.  His team believes in him.”

This action really is new to the redshirt sophomore.  It may not have always looked like it on the field, but it definitely stayed surreal to Del Rio throughout the game.

“When we came out of half time, I kind of looked around and thought ‘oh that’s pretty cool,’ playing for the Gators, I never thought I’d be playing here.  It’s SEC football at its finest.”

Playing in the Swamp really is SEC football at its finest.  Del Rio finally felt the real roar of the Swamp while completing 29-44 passes for 256 yards.  SEC play is coming up next Saturday for the Gators and Del Rio says he and his teammates are ready to hit the ground running. 

“We get to see Kentucky next week,” Del Rio said.  “We’re really excited to get the SEC play going.  So we’re going to enjoy this win, but we’re excited for next week.”



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