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Friday, October 11, 2013
LSU poses challenge for Murphy

By Mackenzie Kraemer and Katie Sharp

Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsTyler Murphy has been a heads-up QB since taking over the starting job.

New quarterback Tyler Murphy has helped lead an offensive turnaround in Gainesville. While Florida has still been heavily reliant on the run, Murphy’s ability to protect the football and convert in key situations has been a huge upgrade over Jeff Driskel. This week Murphy faces his toughest test as Florida travels to face LSU (Saturday, 3:30 ET).

Preventing Negative Plays
One key area in which Murphy represents an improvement over Driskel is in preventing turnovers and sacks. Florida turned the ball over on 25 percent of the drives that Driskel quarterbacked this season while Murphy has just one turnover since taking over the job against Tennessee.

Driskel’s turnovers had a direct impact on Florida’s fortunes. In the Gators’ only two losses over the past two seasons, he turned the ball over seven times.

Before his injury this season, 17 of the 34 points Florida had allowed came off Driskel turnovers, including a pick-six on his final play against Tennessee. Since Murphy took over, Florida has not allowed any points off turnovers.

Over the last two seasons, LSU has scored the second-most points off turnovers in the SEC. The Tigers have been even more efficient this year in converting miscues into scores, increasing their points per turnover forced from 4.1 in 2012 to 5.0 this year.

Driskel has also been very sack-prone, with sacks on nearly 12 percent of dropbacks in his career, the third-worst rate in FBS in that span. Murphy has been sacked on only five percent of dropbacks this year and has not fumbled the ball once.

Converting in Key Situations
Florida has also improved its red zone and third-down production under Murphy. Florida averaged 2.8 points per red zone drive with Driskel this season compared to 5.2 with Murphy. In Florida’s loss to Miami, the Gators managed one touchdown and one field goal in six drives that reached the red zone, as Driskel had more turnovers (3) than completions (2).

LSU has the ability to give Florida trouble inside the 20-yard line. The Tigers have allowed opponents to score a touchdown on only 48 percent of drives reaching the red zone this season, the second-best rate in the SEC.

Murphy has also been more effective on third downs. His third-down conversion rate on passes is 53 percent, 24 percentage points higher than Driskel. Murphy has also converted 11 first downs on the ground, including seven on third down. Driskel ran for just five first downs this year, with none coming on third down.

Murphy’s ability to use his legs goes beyond third downs. He is averaging 5.6 yards per rush, third-best among SEC quarterbacks (min. 10 rushes), and has the highest rate of rushes gaining at least five yards in that group.

While Murphy has been very efficient in a limited sample size, he has not had to face much adversity. Florida has only thrown the ball on 28 percent of its plays since Murphy took over, and it has not trailed in the second half. Against an LSU team that scores over 45 points per game, Murphy may have to handle an increased workload for the Gators to win Saturday.