From the moment the Florida Gators season ended last year with a victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes, the question on every Gator fans mind was who would be the starting quarterback this season. With John Brantley graduating, a quarterback derby ensued between sophomores Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett starting in the spring, continuing on through fall camp, and into the first game.
By the time camp ended and the first game of the season rolled around the coaches still were not quite ready to name a starter. They devised a plan where both guys would play a quarter in the first half against Bowling Green and then they would choose a guy to finish the game based on gut feeling, game play, and the capital each player had built to that point.
Jeff Driskel was the guy the coaches chose to finish the game and become the starter for the rest of the season. The reasoning was that both guys were close in skill set but Jeff was a better runner and they felt they would need his running ability to best compete this season.
Jacoby Brissett? Well he was the loser. The coaches can spin it any way they choose but ultimately Jacoby lost the battle. No more would he get equal reps in practice, no more would he be “the guy” in the heat of battle, now he was relegated to second team snaps and holding clipboards while helping the coaches signal in plays.
So often in football, and in life in general, we see guys in this situation who don’t get the nod, quit. They leave the team for greener pastures elsewhere, somewhere they can play, somewhere they can start, somewhere that doesn’t offer a clipboard and hand-signals.
Many fans had wondered both quietly and aloud in team website message boards whether Brissett would stick around after this season. Some made boisterous statements that Muschamp picked Driskel simply because his family made it clear he would not stick around if he was not the starter. It follows that Brissett might do the same.
Through it all, Muschamp has a mantra about backups: one snap away. No matter whether you’re the backup quarterback, corner back, or punter, you are always a mere one snap away from being the starter so don’t hang your head and sulk, stay prepared for when the situation arrives. For Brissett, that snap came yesterday against Louisiana-Lafayette when Jeff Driskel went down and then out with an ankle injury. When it happened Driskel immediately took himself out of the game. In comes Brissett cold turkey.
As far as what was going through his mind when he took the field
“to come in and pull together and stay under control.” Brissett said. “Make sure I show up. Make sure I know what we did in practice transfers over into the game.”
“Make sure I go out there and do my part, make sure I stay composed keep everybody together and just know that we’ll finish the game with a win”
It’s tough not being the starter, not knowing for sure if or when you will get to see game action again, but,
“you have to practice and play like that knowing that it’s one snap away like what happened today,” Brissett said. “I had to make sure when I got the chance I didn’t make a fool of myself.”
When the big chance came Jacoby was prepared but perhaps a little rusty as one might expect. There was the obvious timing issues between quarterback and receivers and in the mental clock the quarterback has to have based on the blocking ability of the lineman. Coming in cold a quarterback has to catch up with the speed of the game, and according to Brissett,
“That first play when I threw that screen to Gillislee , when I saw how fast the line got out to go block the screen, I knew it was real so I had to make sure I was ready.”
He didn’t light it up right away, but with the defense tightening up and getting three and outs, Jacoby eventually settled down and was able to make some plays. Late in the fourth quarter Brissett strung a few completions together including a big 39 yard pass play to Jordan Reed up the middle of the field. This set up a three yard touchdown pass to Quinton Dunbar which tied the game for the Gators and set up their last second heroics.
Through all the adversity Brissett stuck it out doing what ever he could to help out including being involved in quarterback meetings and sideline decisions. The hardest part is staying focused and preparing as if you’re going to play.
“The motivation part is hard but the one snap away is really real,” according to Brissett. “That’s what I had to take with me going to watch film every day making sure I’m out at practice logged in and not just standing around waiting for my next rep to go in.”
The focus and preparation paid off as he was able to take advantage of “the one snap away” and lead the team to a come from behind win. This is what he focused on during those long weeks of not playing and is certainly a dream come true for him.
“That’s what you dream about no matter who it’s against you want the game to come down to you and try go down there and as any quarterback would say that last drive is probably the best feeling you have in the world,” said Brissett after yesterday’s big win.
It’s a great feeling for Gator fans as well. When Driskel went down a collective groan was heard throughout the Gator nation because not only were they down a touchdown, but Driskel had been playing well, particularly running the zone read, a play he got injured on. The thought that a backup, even one who had almost become the starter, was going to be able to come in and bring this team back wasn’t prevalent among the Gator faithful and an upset by Louisiana appeared imminent.
It didn’t happen, as has been the case almost the whole season, they found a way to pull it out, they found a way to win. This time, though, they couldn’t have done it without Jacoby Brissett. One Snap Away.