GAINESVILLE -- Tyler Murphy will make his first-career start Saturday at Kentucky.
Déjà vu anyone?
Exactly 10 years ago, former Gators quarterback Chris Leak — then a wide-eyed freshman — made his first career start in Commonwealth Stadium and delivered a marquee fourth-quarter performance.
Florida (2-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) rallied from a 21-3 deficit to win 24-21 — its largest road comeback in school history.
Murphy, a redshirt junior, hopes his first start doesn’t come down to a frenetic finish, but he’s excited either way.
“I’ll have butterflies,” he said. “I’ll be anxious, but you know, I’ll get out there and maybe complete my first pass. Once I get hit, I think I’ll be fine. I don’t think it will be as bad as it was this [past] week.”
Murphy admitted he was nervous when he was thrust into action after starting quarterback Jeff Driskel went down with a broken leg against Tennessee.
But he didn’t show it and emerged to save the day.
Murphy totaled 218 yards and two touchdowns in the first significant action of his career. He was poised, confident and, at times, dynamic.
“I was blessed with an opportunity this week,” Murphy said. “Now that [Driskel] is out, [I’m the] next guy in line. I’m just thinking about ways that I can help this team to continue to have success.”
Murphy’s preparation for his first start included picking UF wide receivers coach — and ex-Wildcats coach — Joker Phillips’ brain on their personnel. He said his overall preparation for the game wouldn’t change much from a normal week as a backup, but coach Will Muschamp disagreed.
“It’s different. We would like to sit there as coach speak and say that it is no different and you are going to prepare yourself for that one snap that happens and you’re all of a sudden thrust into the action,” Muschamp said. “Knowing Tyler, he won’t approach it any differently from the standpoint of being the starter. He might have a few more butterflies here and there, but other than that he’s a pretty calm, cool, collected guy as you saw [last] Saturday. He will handle it like a champion.”
While Murphy’s performance against the Volunteers was more of a pop quiz, his initial test could prove more difficult.
Although the Gators have won a school-record 26 consecutive games against the Wildcats (1-2, 0-0) — the longest active annual streak in the nation — first-year UK coach Mark Stoops has reenergized the Bluegrass faithful.
Stoops, Florida State’s former defensive coordinator, pilots a unit that is third in the Southeastern Conference with 181.3 passing yards allowed per game.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Muschamp said. “Whatever the streak is, it doesn’t matter. … None of those games will have any impact on what happens Saturday night.”