It had been a rough week for Florida from an injury standpoint, but the Gators didn’t miss a beat with a 24-7 win over Kentucky on the road Saturday. Now let’s hand out some helmet stickers from the game.
QB Tyler Murphy: If Murphy was nervous in his first start, he didn’t show it. The junior quarterback, who replaced the injured Jeff Driskel, completed his first 12 passes and became the first player since Teddy Bridgewater last October to complete at least 10 passes in the first half without an incompletion. Murphy was 11 of 11 for 121 yards and a touchdown at the intermission. He also rushed for 20 yards and a score. The Gators’ offense slowed down in the second half, but Murphy still finished 15 of 18 for the game. It’s too early to say the offense is better with him under center, but there’s clearly no regression.
RB Matt Jones: There was talk before the season that Jones could be one of the top running backs in the SEC, but he missed all of fall camp and the season opener because of a viral infection he contracted over the summer. Florida eased him back against Miami and Tennessee, but they went to him early and often on Saturday. Jones ran the ball 28 times for 176 yards and a touchdown against Kentucky. His most impressive run came on a 67-yard scamper in the second quarter where he showed off his speed in the open field. He’s now back in the mix with the rest of the league’s top backs and could be the key to the Gators’ offense going forward.
DE Dante Fowler Jr.: As hard as it was to lose Driskel for the season, the loss of defensive tackle Dominique Easley was even more devastating for the Gators. He was one of the team’s top pass rushers and the leader of the defense. When he went down, he passed off his famous Chucky doll to Fowler, asking the sophomore defensive end to step up, be active and play crazy. On Saturday, Fowler stepped up. He finished with five tackles including back-to-back sacks in the second half that killed a Kentucky drive. He’ll have to continue to make plays for this Florida defense, but he showed he was up for the challenge with his play against the Wildcats.