It was a cold autumn Saturday night in Columbia, Missouri, where Florida football — for the second time in three weeks — faltered down the stretch en route to another walk-off field goal loss.
This time, the No. 11 Missouri Tigers proved to be too much for Billy Napier and Co. on their home turf, prevailing 33-31 after an exciting back-and-forth affair for the two Southeastern Conference programs in what looks to be their last meeting for the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, the Gators did not just lose the game but also their starting quarterback, Graham Mertz, who sustained a broken clavicle, giving way to redshirt freshman Max Brown. The backup had one major hiccup but otherwise kept Florida in the game until the very end.
After the dust settled at Faurot Field, Brown spoke with the media about the first major collegiate action of his young career. Below is a look at an abridged version of his responses to the press’ questions.
What went through his mind after Mertz was injured?
Graham’s a warrior so just being behind him and seeing at practice following him around and seeing him compete, I think that really made me keep that one-play mentality and just always being ready for it. I think he’s done a great job and been a great leader throughout the whole season so I think he’s really helped me prepare for this moment.
How did he deal with his emotions?
You’re one play away. You’re always one play away. You’ve got to stay ready. You’ve got to be ready. So just being able to actually feel it and take a deep breath and say, “Let’s go out here and ball,” that was the mentality.
How will this help his mental preparation for the FSU game?
It builds confidence. I think going out there when you get any type of reps and going out there and playing actual live football, it gives you confidence. Going out there, playing, it’s just football at the end of the day.
How did he deal with that costly fumble?
My team did a great job having my back. The defense was coming over to me and telling me, “We got your back, we’re ready to go. We’re going to get you the ball right back.”
So I think that ended up giving me confidence to go out there and perform. They did a great job being able to give me opportunities to go into the game and make plays.
Talking about the read option play to Etienne
That’s my dawg, man, so being able to see seven run into the end zone like that is big time. It’s something we’ve talked about for sure.
... and the misfire on the fumbled handoff
It’s 100% on me. I got to be better mechanically. I got to be able to extend the ball and be able to not put the ball in jeopardy so that’s 100% on me
Did the lack of playing time impact the handoff?
I don’t think so. I think it’s just coming down and making the play on my end so I think I just got to stick with working on it and being able to correct it.
Talking about the huge fourth-down conversion pass
Being able to have faith in your receivers, I think that’s big, especially on fourth down. When you look out there and you’re like, “Who am I going to throw it to,” I got faith in all four of these guys and that’s a big breath of fresh air.
Like I can throw it to all four of these guys right here. I think being able to pick from any of the four calmed me down and allowed me to deliver.
The effect that play had on the game
That was a big momentum shift for our drive. I think being able to have confidence in Kahleil, just putting it in his vicinity and allowing him to make plays. That’s a big-time confidence booster for our offense, being able to keep the drive going.
When asked about his ability to run with the ball
I think it just adds something to the offense to be able to give us another edge to try to go and win football games.
On his "one play" mentality and what he learned about himself
I think I have to give a lot of credit to my family to be able to give me the confidence to have that one-play mentality. My dad is always texting me before the game, you’re one play away. It’s one thing to know it but it’s another to actually be ready for it.
How will his performance in the Mizzou game affect his reps?
I think going into each week you prepare as a starter so I don’t think it really changes much.