Brantley Happy to Survive First Start

Forgive John Brantley if there might have been a little part of him that just wanted to get this first game over with. So many questions in the offseason about following Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow as the starting quarterback at Florida and the weight of having that first start are enough to create much apprehension. Despite all of that and a ton of miscues, Brantley looked poised Saturday.

If you were able to catch the highlights of the first weekend of college football on any of the sports newscasts, the theme for the Gators' highlights was always led with "life after Tebow" or something along those lines. Welcome to John Brantley's world for the last eight months.

For all intents and purposes, that has finally been put to rest and even though things seemed to blow up on the offense a great deal Saturday against Miami (OH), Brantley was able to come out on the opposite end of the game with a win in his first ever start at Florida. It was a big relief after all the tiring questions about following Tebow.

"Absolutely, I answered a lot of questions about replacing Tim," Brantley said with a chuckle while answering questions from the media following the game. "I am happy to get this first win out of the way. We can definitely build on this game and we will be a lot better."

It was a moment he won't forget, running out of the tunnel to the screaming fans that filled The Swamp.

"It was different running out on the field," he said after three years of doing it as a back up. "It completely felt different. I was looking up in the Swamp and saying 'holy cow'. I was just real excited to get things going. It wasn't our day, but we did a lot of great things out there and we will learn from our mistakes."

"I was a little nervous. Coach Loeffler asked if I got enough breakfast. I told him I couldn't eat this time. I was a little nervous but felt prepared."

Brantley finished with only 113 yards but a nice 17-of-25 pass completion mark. He threw two touchdowns and would like to throw more, but knows the offense will get cranking and likes what he is doing in the Gators' offense.

"Any quarterback likes to throw it, but I trust what Coach Addazio is doing and I trust the play calling," he said. "Whatever he feels needs to happen, I am completely for that. Whatever he calls I am happy to run it."

Getting the speedy players like Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps involved will always be a major part of the game plan. A lot of plays seemed to go sideways on Saturday and didn't progress down the field like they were designed. Still, look for it to be an integral part of the offense moving forward.

"A lot of it was designed to get a rhythm going," Brantley said. "With playmakers on the perimeter like Demps, you can throw short passes and watch it go for 15 yards. We practice it a lot and we are going to keep doing our thing."

Eventually Demps took a stretch zone play off the right tackle for 67 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Mike Gillislee rumbled 51 yards for a long run that cushioned the yardage stats quite a bit. Brantley said those moments are what the offense is capable of at any time.

"That's what we were hoping to do the whole game," he said. "Stuff doesn't go your way all the time. We have to learn to bounce back from that and keep fighting and that's what we did. That is when long runs like that can happen and change the game and it did."

The Gators had a rocky first three quarters and maybe some of that was due to Brantley being a little unaccustomed to being the lead man on the offense. A lot of that he figured out during the game itself.

"Now I really know how to prepare," Brantley said. "I thought I knew how, but it is completely different when you actually start. I know what to do now and we are going to work hard this week to get ready...I just know what to look for and I know how the game works and the game progress goes."

The Gators had eight fumbles and close to 15 snaps to the quarterback that didn't go as planned. That many miscues would mean a loss for almost any team, fortunately a big fourth quarter with far fewer miscues let the Gators finish the job.

"Stuff happens and we have to bounce back from it," Brantley said. "I think that is what we learned today is how to bounce back. We're going to fix that stuff up and we are going to move on.

The connection between center Mike Pouncey and John Brantley has been talked about throughout the offseason and leading up to the game. On Saturday, that connection fell apart time and time again. The offense seemed to go backward more than forward through three quarters of play and in large part due to bad snaps. Brantley was asked if it was an embarrassing outing.

"I wasn't so much embarrassed, I know we have great offense and a great center," Brantley answered. "I know he's going to get better and always is. I'm not embarrassed at's just one of those things. We are just going to have to get ready for USF."

"Mike is a great center, I trust him with everything. I think it was just one of those days. We are going to get that right and I am sure we will get that right...It would be tough to win with those turnovers against an SEC school, but we are going to learn from it."

Brantley did show a great deal of poise at times in tough situations. In one instance, Miami sniffed out a screen pass and the only logical move was to throw the ball at the feet of the intended receiver. Brantley did so, and under pressure.

On one other play, Brantley eluded a defender and scrambled to the sideline on a fourth and long. Most would just throw the ball away, but Brantley had the presence of mind to realize and interception was as good as a punt in this case and he made the throw into the end zone which bounced off of one receiver and into the waiting arms of Chris Rainey.

"I was scrambling out and in the back of my mind I was thinking 'just throw it away'," he said. "I remembered it was fourth down and I should just throw it up and see if anything happened...and it did."

One guy that Brantley liked on Saturday was tight end/receiver Omarius Hines. Hines caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown on the day. He looks to be an exceptional athlete that can be a difference maker in the Florida offense.

"Omarius is a great player and is very reliable," Brantley said. "I know he will be in the right spot and where he will be at the right times. He has great hands and great speed, he's just a really accountable guy."

Another big target for Brantley had a couple of big catches as well but one big one that got away. Deonte Thompson was defended decently on a long touchdown throw in the first quarter. Brantley placed the ball on the money, only to have the defender help keep Thompson from catching it by swatting at his arms. Although technically it wasn't a drop, the junior receiver is expected to make a play there.

"I just told him to forget about it...things happen," Brantley answered when asked what he said to Thompson. "Dropped balls are going to occur. Let's forget about it and move on to the next play."

Finally, Brantley was grateful for the Gator defense. Florida's defense allowed just four field goals and 12 points on the day and most of the points came because the Miami offense got the ball in great field position from Florida turnovers. Florida also scored a couple of touchdowns after great field position which the defense set up for them.

"We put our defense in a couple of bad spots," Brantley said. "I think we have one of the best defenses in the country. I apologized to them a few times and it's a good thing we can count on them.

"(Getting the ball close to the goal) makes it a lot easier, those are momentum swings. That is why we love our defense, they always come through for us."

John Brantley will a better quarterback moving forward because of all the adversity faced in a game the Gators won. There is a lot to work on and a few things they did well that they a new starting quarterback can build on. The next mission is to have a big game and the Tebow comparisons will lesson. Brantley showed the poise in this game to believe that will happen.
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