Like Tim Tebow, Trey Burton has his skeptics and critics, especially about his throwing motion. And like Tebow, the freshman from Venice High School showed he knows how to answer them if his debut performance in Florida’s Orange and Blue Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Saturday proves to be an indication.
The 6-2, 220-pound Burton, whose passing motion is still a work in progress, nevertheless was impressive with his 12-of-18 passing effort that netted 120 yards and one touchdown for the Orange (second) team. Burton also showcased his running talents, totaling 123 yards and two touchdown with his 10 carries, one of them a 76-yard scamper that got his team out of trouble in the shadows of its own goal posts.
Still, it was not enough to offset the effort of Tebow’s designated successor, redshirt junior John Brantley, who completed 15 of 19 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and Wildcat-quarterback-in-the-making (and tight end otherwise) Justin Reed (3-of-5 for 80 yards and a touchdown) as the Blue Team, which once led 14-0 in the first quarter, rallied for a 27-24 victory on a beautiful spring Saturday afternoon before a crowd estimated at better than 51,000 fans.
Brantley and Burton, who should be Florida’s top two quarterbacks when the season starts next Sept. 4 against Miami (Ohio) of the Mid-American Conference, showed their vulnerabilities. Not noted for his running, Brantley was sacked four times and lost 22 yards on his five carries. Burton threw an interception on his first scrimmage play of the afternoon (it was returned 31 yards by fellow classmate Joshua Shaw to set up Brantley’s first touchdown pass of the day, a 14-yarder to senior Carl Moore) and also recovered his own fumble on another play.
Still their passing was encouraging as was the work of their receivers led by Moore, a junior-college All-American who sat out last season with a back injury. Moore led the Blue team with five receptions for 102 yards.
“You know, when you sign a Tim Tebow, getting a John Brantley to follow him is very rare,” said Florida head coach Urban Meyer, who rated this spring practice an “A” and the football game the same. “He is a great player. Trey did much better today than he has all spring. He came out of the spring game very improved and that’s all we ask.”
The game, which was the 15th of the allowable spring practices, was played with 10-minute quarters and also without kickoff or punt returns to prevent injuries. After all scores, teams started drives at their own 35-yard line.
It took Brantley only 2:14 seconds to drive the Blue team to its first touchdown, a 1-yard run by sophomore Mike Gillislee. On the first play of the game, Brantley completed a 47-yard pass to Deonte Thompson that set up the Blue with a first-and-10 at the Orange 18. Brantley then lost a yard on first down and was sacked by William Green for a loss of four yards, setting up a third-and-15 at the Orange 23.
Wide receiver Andre Debose, the flag bearer of the Class of 2009 recruiting class who missed all of last season with a hamstring problem that required surgery and only began practicing this week, caught a 21-yard pass over the middle to set up the touchdown that came after two runs by Gillislee. Caleb Sturgis kicked the PAT, his first of five on the afternoon, and the Blue led 7-0.
Following Burton’s interception and Shaw’s 31-yard return to the Orange 44, Brantley wasted no time moving his team again, hooking up with Moore for a 19-yard pass over the middle. Following a 2-yard run by Gillislee, Brandley connected again for a first-down pass with Debose, this time for 9 yards, that gave the Blue a first-and-10 at the 14. Brantley then hit Moore for the touchdown on the next play and Sturgis’ PAT made it 14-0 with 5:37 remaining in the first quarter.
If he was bothered by the interception, Burton didn’t show it. On first-and-10 from the 48, Burton connected with fellow classmate Robert Clark for 22 yards before Clark was tackled by his Dwyer High School teammate Matt Elam at the Blue 30.
Two players later, Burton connected with Justin Williams for 7 yards, setting up a third-and-3 at the Blue 23. Burton gained a yard and then McQuay rushed for three yards on a fourth-and-2 play for another first down at the 19. On third-and-7 from the 16, Burton connected with Williams for 6 yards and on fourth-and-1 he gained four yards for a first-and-goal at the Blue 6. On the first play of the second quarter from the 5, Burton rushed over right end for the touchdown that cut the Blue lead to 14-7.
Only the Blue’s next possession, Brantley gave way to Reed, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound redshirt freshman who was moved to tight end but is expected to see some action as a Wildcat quarterback this fall. Reed picked up a third-and-3 first down with a quarterback draw of 4 yards and then on first-and-10 from his 46, he connected with Moore for 39 yards to the Orange 15. But on fourth-and-one at the 6, Reed’s quarterback draw was stopped by Jay Howard for no gain.
The Orange took over there with 5:44 left before halftime but didn’t stay there long as Burton broke off a 76-yard run on the quarterback draw before being stopped by Moses Jenkins at the Blue 18. Two plays later, Burton hit Omarius Hines over the middle for 20 yards and a touchdown and the game was tied 14-all after Sturgis’ PAT.
The Orange got the ball back with 2:35 remaining at the Orange 33, and Burton executed an 8-play scoring drive that ended with Sturgis kicking a 37-yard field goal for an Orange 17-14 halftime lead. Burton was 5-for-7 on the drive, connecting on his first five passes, three times to Moore (for 28 yards) and twice to Hines (for 18).
Brantley, a former All-American at Ocala Trinity Catholic, put his team back in the lead by engineering a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive to begin the second half. After misfiring on his first two passes, Brantley hit Moore on a crossing pass for 18 yards for a first down at the Orange 47. Four plays later, on fourth-and-4 from the Orange 41, Brantley hit Frankie Hammond Jr. for 5 yards to keep the drive alive.
Brantley and Moore connected again for 31 yards down to the Orange 5, and after Gillislee picked up a yard, Brantley hit Hammond on a sideline pass for the touchdown and a 21-17 Blue lead that ended Brantley’s day.
Burton put the Orange in front for the last time at 24-21 with a 9-yard touchdown run with 5:49 remaining to culminate a 30-yard drive following Scott Peek’s interception and 25-yard return of a Reed pass on the fourth play of the fourth quarter.
But Reed atoned for the mistake when he found T.J. Lawrence for 31 yards and the winning touchdown with 3:04 left.
BLUE 27, ORANGE 24
At Ben Hill Griffin Stadium/Florida Field, Gainesville
Score by quarters 1 2 3 4—Total
Orange 0 17 0 7 —24
Blue 14 0 7 6 —27
BLUE–Mike Gillislee 1 run (Caleb Sturgis kick good) at 07:45. Drive: 6 plays, 65 yards, 2:15 time elapsed from start of game. Key plays: On game’s first play, QB John Brantley connected with WR Deonte Thompson for 47 yards; Brantley’s 21-yard completion to Andre Debose on third-and-15 from the Orange 23. Score: Blue 7, Orange 0.
BLUE–Carl Moore 14 pass from John Brantley (Sturgis kick good) at 05:37. Drive: 4 plays, 44 yards, 1:52 time elapsed following Joshua Shaw’s interception and 31-yard return of Orange QB Trey Burton pass to the Orange 44. Key plays: Brantley completed three passes—19 yards to Moore, 9 yards to Debose and the final 14 yards to Moore for the touchdown. Score: Blue 14, Orange 0.
ORANGE–Trey Burton 5 run (Sturgis kick good) at 09:50. Drive: 13 plays, 65 yards, 5:47 time elapsed following Blue touchdown. Key plays: Burton connected with Robert Clark for 22 yards on the third play of the drive; Ean McQuay converted a fourth-and-2 play from the Blue 22 with a 3-yard run; Burton converted a fourth-and-1 play at the Blue 10 with a 4-yard run. Score: Blue 14, Orange 7.
ORANGE–Omarius Hines 20 pass from Burton (Sturgis kick good) at 04:30. Drive: 3 plays, 94 yards, 1:14 time elapsed following fourth-down stand when Jaye Howard stopped QB Jordan Reed’s fourth-and-1 run for no gain at the Orange 6. Key plays: On first play of drive, Burton broke free on a 76-yard quarterback draw to the Blue 18 where he was stopped by Moses Jenkins. Two plays later, Burton hit Hines over the middle for the touchdown. Score: Orange 14, Blue 14.
ORANGE–FG Sturgis 37 good at 00:50. Drive: 8 plays, 46 yards, 1:45 time elapsed following Blue punt. Key plays: Burton completed his first five passes (of seven thrown) for 46 yards to set up Sturgis’ successful field goal. Score: Orange 17, Blue 14.
BLUE–Frankie Hammond Jr. 4 pass from Brantley (Sturgis kick good) at 03:35. Drive: 10 plays, 65 yards, 6:25 time elapsed from start of second half. Key plays: Brantley connected with Moore for 18 yards on third-and-10 play at the beginning of the drive; Brantley hit Hammond for 5-yard gain on fourth-and-4 at the Orange 41; Brantley’s 31-yard pass over the middle to Hines to give Blue a first-and-goal at the Orange 5. Score: Blue 21, Orange 17.
ORANGE–Burton 9 run (Zach Brust kick good) at 05:49. Drive: 3 plays, 30 yards, 1:38 time elapsed following Scott Peek interception and 25-yard return of Jordan Reed pass that set up the Orange at the Blue 30. Key plays: Two quarterback draw runs by Burton of 12 and 9 yards, the final one for the touchdown. Score: Orange 24, Blue 21.
BLUE–T.J. Lawrence 31 pass from Justin Reed (Chas Henry kick blocked by ) at 03:04. Drive: 3 plays, 65 yards, 2:45 time elapsed following Orange touchdown. Key plays: Mike Gillislee’s 24-yard run to the Orange 31 and Reed’s touchdown pass to Lawrence on the next play. Score: Blue 27, Orange 24.
Weather: Sunny and pleasant. Temperature 74 degrees. Winds from the Northeast at 11 miles per hour.
Kickoff time: 1:06 p.m. End of game: 2:45 p.m. Total elapsed time: 1:39.
Officials: Ken Williamson, referee; Mitch Geier, umpire; Tim Beard, head linesman; John Hoffman, line judge; Rich Martinez, back judge; Ed Balbis, field judge; Troy Riley, side judge; Steve Howard, scorer.
Next game: Sept. 4 vs. Miami (Ohio) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
FIRST DOWNS 13 16
Rushing 7 4
Passing 6 12
Penalty 0 0
NET YARDS RUSHING 160 44
Rushing attempts 20 18
Average per rush 8.0 2.4
Rushing touchdowns 2 1
Yards gained rushing 167 69
Yards lost rushing 7 25
NET YARDS PASSING 120 281
Comp-Att-Int 12-18-1 18-24-1
Average per attempt 6.7 11.7
Average per completion 10.0 15.6
Passing touchdowns 1 3
TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS 280 325
Total offense plays 38 42
Average gain per play 7.4 7.7
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 0-0 0-0
Punts-average 1-42 1-42
Return yards 25 31
Time of possession 17:19 22:41
Third-down conversions 1-5 3-6
Fourth-down conversions 2-2 1-2
Red-zone chances-scores 3-3 3-4
Sacks by: 4-21 0-0
RUSHING: ORANGE, Trey Burton 10-123-2, long 76; Tim Clark 2-17-0, long 11; Ean McQuay 7-14-0, long 7; Jordan Reed 1-6-0, long 6. BLUE, Mike Gillislee 10-47-1, long 24; Jordan Reed 3-19-0, long 15; John Brantley 5-minus 22, 0 long.
PASSING: ORANGE, Trey Burton 12-18-1, 120 yards, 1 TD, long 22, 0 sacks. BLUE, John Brantley 15-19-0, 201 yards, 2 TD, long 47, 4 sacks; Jordan Reed 3-5-1, 80 yards, 1 TD, long 39, 0 sacks.
RECEIVING: ORANGE, Omarius Hines 3-38-1, long 20; Carl Moore 3-28-0, long 18; Robert Clark 2-30-0, long 22; Justin Williams 2-13-0, long 7; Team 1-9-0, long 9; Gerald Christian 1-2-0, long 2. BLUE, Carl Moore 5-102-1, long 39; Frankie Hammond Jr. 4-20-1, long 6; T.J. Lawrence 2-41-1, long 31; Andre Debose 2-30-0, long 21; Deonte Thompson 1-47-0, long 47; Omarius Hines 1-31-0, long 31; Justin Williams 1-6-0, long 6; Mike Gillislee 1-5-0, long 5; Jordan Reed 1-minus 1, long 0.
PUNTING: ORANGE, Chas Henry 1-42, long 42. BLUE, Chas Henry 1-42, long 42.
INTERCEPTIONS: ORANGE, Scott Peek 1-25-0, long 25. BLUE, Joshua Shaw 1-31-0, long 31.
TACKLES (Solo-Assist): ORANGE, Joshua Shaw 6-0, Jaye Howard 4-0, Omar Hunter 3-1, Lorenzo Edwards 2-2, Matt Elam 3-0, Miguel Carodine 2-1, William Green 2-0, Duke Lemmens 2-0, Jelani Jenkins 1-0, Moses Jenkins 1-0, Dee Finley 1-0,Brian Biada 1-0, Brendan Beal 1-0. BLUE, Scott Peek 3-1, Brandon Beal 3-1, Jon Bostic 3-0, Moses Jenkins 3-0, Jordan Haden 2-0, Joshua Shaw 1-1, Lerentee McCray 1-1, Jordan Reed 1-0, Brian Biada 1-0, Earl Okine 1-0, Shawn Schmieder 1-0, Matt Elam 1-0, Gary Beemer 1-0, Neiron Ball 1-0.
TACKLES FOR LOSS: ORANGE, Jaye Howard 2.0/12, Omar Howard 2.0/4, William Green 2.0/5, Duke Lemmens 1.0/5. BLUE, Neiron Ball 1.0/2.
QUARTERBACK SACKS: ORANGE, Jaye Howard 2.0/12, William Green 1.0/4, Duke Lemmens 1.0/5. BLUE, none.
INTERCEPTIONS: ORANGE, Scott Peek 1-25. BLUE, Joshua Shaw 1-31.
PASSES BROKEN UP: ORANGE, none. BLUE, Joshua Shaw 1.
BLOCKED KICKS: ORANGE, Glenn Watson 1, BLUE, none.