Luke Del Rio’s knee injury gave Austin Appleby an opportunity to start his first game since November 28, 2015. Appleby and the Purdue Boilermakers lost to Indiana 54-36 that day with Appleby throwing for 332 yards on 36-of-57 passing.
With Del Rio returning to practice last week and getting closer to a return, Appleby’s days as a starter are numbered but that won’t change his mindset or preparation.
“I think you always anticipate starting,” Appleby said Monday. “The preparation doesn’t change. I’m looking forward to a great week of practice, a great week of preparation.”
The fifth year graduate transfer has played adequately in his two starts, completing 63% (42-67) of his passes for 438 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and one fumble. Still, Florida’s offense has sputtered the past six quarters. Since Appleby lit up the Tennessee Volunteers in the first quarter to the tune of 10-of-16 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns, he’s cooled off. In the six quarters since Appleby is just 32-of-51 for 227 yards with one touchdown and two turnovers (1 INT, 1 fumble).
“You always want to have a couple throws back,” McElwain said of Appleby’s performance against Vanderbilt. “I bet if you ask a quarterback in the NFL today based on yesterday, there’s a couple guys who might want a throw or two back, right? That’s part of it. That’s part of playing the position, and you know what? He’ll continue to grow.”
Appleby and Del Rio will split first team reps in practice, like they did during spring camp and most of fall camp. They both want the same thing — to be the Florida Gators starting quarterback — but don’t expect there to be a rift in the quarterback room.
“People want to make it Austin versus Luke. It’s not that. It’s never been that. We support each other. It’s about our position group being the very best it can possibly be to help the Gators win on Saturdays,” Appleby said. “Regardless of whose number is called, both of us want our number to be called. He wants to be healthy, he wants to be out there, and I want to be out there and playing. Because we both think we’re the one that gives our team the best chance to win. It’s not he versus I. It’s not that. It’s about pushing yourself to get a little bit better every day.”
The Gators don’t have a quarterback controversy. It takes two mature players to handle this kind of situation and keep it cordial, not let ego take over and bleed into the locker room driving a wedge amongst the players. It’s a credit to both Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby , but as the backup it’s truly a testament to Appleby’s makeup and maturity. Even when Del Rio supplants him as the starter Appleby will still do what he can to help the Gators win football games.
“You talk about being a thermostat instead of a thermometer. A guy that brings the heat as opposed to one who maybe feeds off of other people,” Appleby said Monday. “Be the one who guys feed off of.”
Don’t expect any bad blood or sideways glances either.
“I’m excited for him. He’s my teammate,” said Appleby. “I’m a Luke Del Rio fan.”