UF QB Austin Appleby looks to make most of final game in Outback Bowl

GAINESVILLE — Quarterback Austin Appleby saw his college career circling the drain and decided to change everything for one last chance to save it.

Appleby has done much more than salvage his final season — he has squeezed it for every last drop.

The 23-year-old is not finished, either.

Appleby’s last game for the Florida Gators with be yet another experience to check off his bucket list. The Jan. 2 Outback Bowl against Iowa will be Appleby’s first start in a bowl game.

"It’s awesome," he said. "It’s really cool. The first game I actually played was against Iowa, so that’s kind of neat in itself."

A native of Ohio, Appleby left behind his Midwestern roots, his family and his NFL cheerleader girlfriend when he transferred from Purdue last December to play one season at UF.

Appleby arrived as a backup quarterback, but he has started six games this season, including the last four, due to injuries to Luke Del Rio.

Along the way, Appleby has enjoyed experiences good and bad, but nonetheless memorable.

He played in front of 102,455 people during a loss at Tennessee and in the SEC title game fell to an unbeaten Alabama squad amid a historic run. Appleby’s first and only start in the Swamp came during a senior day win against South Carolina . A week later, he silenced LSU ‘s storied Tiger Stadium with the longest touchdown pass at UF since the 1970s to help the Gators to an upset win.

Appleby enters the Outback Bowl 3-3 at UF — one win more than he had during 11 starts at Purdue. His numbers as a Gators’ starter are solid — a 62.0-percent completion percentage, eight touchdowns, five interceptions and an average of 204 yards a game.

Even Appleby’s three-interception day against Alabama had its moments. His two touchdown passes were the first allowed by the Crimson Tide in more than a month.

But Appleby is aware of the Monday-morning-quarterback mentality. After all, he was the Gators’ backup not long ago.

"I was pretty popular a couple weeks ago. Now I’m not so popular," he joked. "But you know what, that’s how it goes at the University of Florida. The only guys I have to answer to are my teammates, my coaches. The rest of it is just noise."Quite frankly, I have no room for it. It’s too hard already to let that kind of stuff come in. I’m going to keep pushing forward."When coach Jim McElwain named Appleby the starter for the bowl game, he was not surprised. The idea first-year freshman Feleipe Franks would replace him never crossed Appleby’s mind."I think I played well," he said. "Obviously a vote of confidence from your head coach is great. Any time you get an opportunity to play the game, it’s awesome."And I’m going to make the most of it."The upbeat Appleby knows no other way but to adapt.Appleby’s move south required an adjustment, but when he arrived to visit his girlfriend last weekend in frigid Indianapolis wearing a light jacket, he realized he had become […]