Thoughts of the day: September 22, 2013

PLAYER OF THE GAME VS. TENNESSEE: On offense, that’s a no-brainer. It’s Tyler Murphy, who went 8-14 for 134 yards and a touchdown and ran 84 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Prior to Saturday, Murphy had only played in five games in his three previous seasons in Gainesville and he had never thrown a pass. He played like a cool veteran against Tennessee. He’ll need that cool to carry over the rest of the season because with Jeff Driskel out for the season, he’s the man. Murphy’s ability to avoid the rush and make positive plays injected some excitement into the crowd but it also seemed to give the offense a jolt of much-needed energy. It’s too early to tell if Murphy has long-term answers for the Florida offense but for this game, at least, he was exactly what the Gators needed.

PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF FOR MURPHY: For three years in Florida fans have speculated that Murphy would (a) switch positions and play wide receiver or (b) transfer to Temple to play for Steve Addazzio or to a Division IAA school if he wanted to play quarterback. Judging by the way he played Saturday, he never lost confidence that he could get the job done if given a chance. Murphy’s coming out party has to rank right up there with Harold Peacock leading the Gators to a win at Kentucky in 1968 as the biggest shocks in Florida football history. Peacock won the only game he ever started to stop the bleeding in a difficult 1968 season in which the Florida team was split down the middle with internal problems.

FOWLER SAVED THE GATORS’ LUNCH: Dante Fowler’s first quarter was worth a minimum of six and a maximum of 10 points for the Gators. On Tennessee’s first possession, he arrived at the ball the same time Nate Peterman was trying to hand off to Rajion Neal. Peterman and Neal went flying and Fowler came up with the ball at the 13. The Vols would have gotten at least three and possibly six without that turnover. The second big play was late in the quarter when he sacked Peterman at the Florida six, forcing a fumble that Michael Taylor recovered. The Gators got a field goal out of that to cut the Tennessee lead to 7-3. Fowler’s big first quarter allowed the Gators to hang on until Murphy got the offense cranked up in the second quarter.

HOW DO YOU LIKE THESE NUMBERS?: In three games, Florida’s defense has given up just 637 yards and only 166 on the ground. Opponents are averaging only 2.5 yards per carry and only 4.9 yards per pass attempt. The Gators have given up only one rushing touchdown and while they’ve given up three through the air, they’ve picked off six passes in three games. Opponents are now 7-37 on third down, which is 19%. Opponents are completing only 44.3% of their passes.

OVERRATED: #1 on that list is Michigan. A week after needing a home job call by the zebras to eke out a win over Akron, the Wolverines had to come from two touchdowns in arrears to take out UConn, 24-21. The Wolverines aren’t looking like a team that has any business in the top 25.  Add Notre Dame to that category. The Irish can’t run the ball and Tommy Rees is adequate – if that – at quarterback. Although they won by 14 over Arizona State, #5 Stanford might fit into the overrated category. The Cardinal gave up 357 passing yards to Arizona State. Somewhere in Eugene, Oregon, Marcus Mariota is drooling.

A WIN FOR CHARLIE CHEESEBURGER: Charlie Weis got his first win of the season at Kansas, breaking a 13-game losing streak overall and a 22-game losing streak to Division I team. Prior to Saturday’s 13-10 win over Louisiana Tech, Weis only had wins over Division IAA South Dakota in 2012 and South Dakota State this year. They need to celebrate while they can in Lawrence. The next four games are Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma and Baylor. There isn’t a win to be found in that bunch. Kansas fans, by and large, don’t like Weis but considering firing him would mean a new coach for the fourth time in five years, there is a good chance he gets a third year. Besides, Charlie has an ironclad contract with a large buyout. Just ask Notre Dame how much Charlie’s lawyer cost them when they canned him.

WHAT ARE THE ODDS THIS WOULD HAPPEN?: As unlikely as it is for a team to score 70 points and gain 781 yards in a college game, what are the odds the same team would do it on consecutive weeks? Baylor, which gained 781 yards while lighting up Buffalo, 70-13, last week, lit up Louisiana-Monroe, 70-7, Saturday and gained 781 yards for the second straight week. Coach Art Briles is an offensive genius. It’s his scheme that Kevin Sumlin uses at Texas A&M and coordinator Chad Morris uses at Clemson. You can bet Briles’ name is going to be heard a lot when Countdown to Firing Day begins in earnest, but it’s highly doubtful he will leave Baylor. He’s a Texas native who’s got a good thing going at Baylor and at age 57, it’s said that he really doesn’t relish another move.

JAMEIS WINSTON THREW NINE INCOMPLETIONS: In his first two games as a college quarterback against Division I teams, Florida State freshman Jameis Winston went 40-45 passing for 570 yards and six touchdowns. The Seminoles had no problems Saturday with D1AA Bethune-Cookman, but Winston had more incompletions in this game than the first two combined. He was 10-19 for 148 yards and two touchdowns, the kind of numbers that make you think Winston might have some problems when he faces a sophisticated Division I defense. Only problem is, it’s the ACC and the closest thing Winston will see to a sophisticated defense prior to the showdown with the Gators in Gainesville is Miami on November 2.

MUSIC FOR TODAY: Murphy’s Law says everything that can go wrong will go wrong and at the worst possible moment. Saturday, Tyler Murphy was everything that could go wrong for the Tennessee Vols. Instead of coming into the game ill-prepared and incapable of leading Florida’s offense, Murphy led the Gators to four touchdowns and a field goal, which is a solid if not sensational debut at quarterback. Our music for today is “Murphy’s Law,” a 1982 song by the soul singer Cheri.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.