History shows the Florida Gators starting a backup quarterback in Austin Appleby due to Luke Del Rio’s injury is terrible news for the Tennessee Volunteers.
There was a time when the Tennessee-Florida game would be dictated by whether or not the Gators had a first-year starter at quarterback. Before 2005, Austin Appleby would spell good news for the Vols.
After all, when the rivalry exploded in 1990, five of the Vols’ six wins came in games where Florida’s quarterback was in his first start against Tennessee. Chris Leak in 2004, Ingle Martin in 2003, Rex Grossman in 2001, Jesse Palmer and Doug Johnson in 1998, and Shane Matthews in 1990 all lost because of that.
But something changed when Urban Meyer took over in 2005. Since then, the Vols have been the team for Florida quarterbacks to break out. It’s been a huge part of this streak.
Just ask Tim Tebow, who had his break out running game in 2006. He then dominated the Vols in his first official start in 2007.
Ask John Brantley, an interception machine who still had three touchdowns and no interceptions in two games against the Vols.
Then there’s Jeff Driskel. He was a liability who eventually transferred out. But in his first start against the Vols, he teased everybody. He threw for 219 yards, ran for 81 yards, and scored three touchdowns with no turnovers.
Tennessee tried the new quarterback thing the next year by starting Nathan Peterman. He was so bad he solely lost that game to the Gators.
Then came 2014. Driskel was awful against the Vols all game. But Treon Harris, a longtime terrible quarterback for Florida, came in. He engineered two quick scoring drives in the fourth to give the Gators a 10-9 victory.
What about 2015? The Gators suspended Harris for the Tennessee game. Enter Will Grier. Here is a quarterback the Gators would also suspend, for the year, two weeks later and would eventually transfer out.
But on one glorious day against the Vols, he threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns and converted five fourth downs while leading the Gators back from a 27-14 fourth quarter deficit.
So going into this game, with Luke Del Rio hurt, forgive me if I have no faith in the Vols to stop Austin Appleby.
Who cares if he was garbage in three years with the Purdue Boilermakers? There’s a chance he’ll play like garbage the rest of the year.
But if history is any indication, you can bet that he will have the game of his life against the Vols.
That’s why nobody in Knoxville has any excitement about facing a backup quarterback this weekend.