Skyler Mornhinweg is ready for another shot.
Florida looks likely to roll with Mornhinweg as its starting quarterback for the second straight week as Tyler Murphy continues to rehabilitate his injured shoulder. Mornhinweg survived and was serviceable at South Carolina last week and should have an easier time Saturday at home against Georgia Southern (2 p.m., pay-per-view).
“I’m going to go out there and play to the best of my ability,” he said. “Definitely, I feel like I can prove something out there on the field. I think I’m ready.”
Gators coach Will Muschamp still hopes Murphy will be able to play but did not think he would practice any sooner than Wednesday. Last week, Florida ruled out Murphy for the South Carolina game by Thursday.
It seems more realistic that he will return for the regular-season finale against Florida State next Saturday.
Murphy took over the starting job when Jeff Driskel broke his leg in Week 3 and proved to be a capable backup. The Gators won his first three games and were in range in the fourth quarter of two others.
In his first three games, Murphy completed 39 of 54 passes for 530 yards and had five touchdown passes with one interception. Since then, his completion percentage has been 55.7, he has one touchdown pass and has thrown four picks.
He suffered a sprained acromioclavicular joint in his throwing shoulder during the 17-6 loss at LSU on Oct. 12 and managed to play through it against Missouri, Georgia and Vanderbilt. He felt reasonably healthy heading into the Vanderbilt game two weeks ago, but the injury worsened when he took several hits and attempted 46 passes that afternoon.
Murphy was unable to fully participate in practice leading up to the South Carolina trip. He tried some light throwing, but the pain was prohibitive.
“There wasn’t much velocity and stuff like that,” he said. “It wasn’t coming out pretty.
“If I can’t make the throws in practice, it’s not going to happen in the game. Sitting out and not practicing doesn’t help. We’re trying to figure out what’s best for the team.”
Without him, Florida stuck to its ground game against South Carolina last week. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease sheltered Mornhinweg by calling runs on 24 of the first 26 plays, and the Gators totaled 169 yards on 22 carries in the first half.
That strategy proved unsustainable, though, when the Gamecocks caught on at halftime and limited UF to 31 rushing yards the rest of the night. They won 19-14, sending Florida to its fifth straight defeat.
“We definitely have to open it up a little more, because you can’t win a lot of games being conservative,” Murphy said. “I think now that Skyler’s got his feet wet and stuff like that, he’s comfortable. He knows what it feels like to finally be out there. I think the coaches can be a little more comfortable calling stuff and allow things to develop downfield.”
Mornhinweg attempted just five passes through three quarters and finished 10 of 13 for 107 yards. His only significant problem was an interception when the Gators were in desperation mode with 1:22 remaining.
“I thought he handled the situation very well,” Muschamp said. “We need to give him more, which we will. I thought he executed what we asked him to do.
“We were pretty dead on with the management of the game and taking the ball to the right spots. He made some nice throws when we asked him to.”
Georgia Southern (6-4) is unlikely to cause Mornhinweg anywhere near as much duress as South Carolina did. The Eagles are an FCS team that allows 207.9 passing yards per game.
However, there will be plenty of pressure on whoever starts at quarterback. The Gators must win this game and the next to reach bowl eligibility. If not, they will snap their 22-year streak of playing in the post-season and suffer their first losing record since going 0-10-1 in 1979.