After a month of pursuing relentless effort on the practice field, the Florida Gators decided to end their spring with some relentless fun Saturday afternoon in The Swamp.
And they executed their game plan to near perfection.
For a day, in front of 53,015 of their energized fans and with more than 150 former players watching from the sidelines or the stands, the Gators put the fun back in Florida football in the Orange & Blue Game.
Wild, goofy, sometimes hilarious fun.
“I’m going to have fun,” UF coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “Life is too short. We’re going to have fun. Now I’m competitive and I want to win, but we’re going to have fun doing this.”
The hilarity highlights include:
Kyle Trask throwing a 48-yard touchdown pass to former safety Lawrence Wright, who stepped off the sideline and was at least 30 yards behind a stunned Orange secondary (yes, the play had been planned).
Quarterback Feleipe Franks punting the ball into the north end zone stands and then receiving a piggyback ride to the sideline following a 60-yard touchdown run (where he appeared to get an escort from the defense for the final 20 yards or so).
Franks, a few minutes later, doing a 360-degree slam dunk over the goalpost after scoring on a three-yard run.
Franks throwing a 60-yard touchdown pass to former wide receiver Travis McGriff, who like Wright, snuck onto the field from the sideline. The plan was for Franks to throw a backward pass to former quarterback Doug Johnson, who would then throw to McGriff, one of his former receivers. But Franks got confused and skipped that step.
Running back Jordan Scarlett and his Blue offensive teammates getting on the ground and playing Duck Duck Goose in the south end zone after his one-yard touchdown run.
R.J. Raymond throwing the ball into the second deck of the north end zone stands after catching a 58-yard TD pass from true freshman quarterback Emory Jones.
Fun times, for sure, in the Orange’s 35-30 win.
“You know what’s fun, playing as hard as you possibly can, setting a goal for yourself, giving it everything you have to go achieve that goal,” Mullen said. “That’s fun.
“Hopefully, we’re going to score a lot points in the fall. Because I know everybody here loves points. I love points. I love winning. I love having fun out there. But to me, game day is the atmosphere. I want to have fun in the stadium and outside the stadium. It seemed that way to me today.”
During his speaking tour before the start of spring practice, Mullen told fans he wanted the game-day atmosphere in The Swamp to be like a rock concert, a rollicking rock concert.
“Did we hit it today?” he said. “Yeah, (it’s what we were aiming for).”
The game officials knew it was coming. The touchdown plays to the former players counted and there were no celebration penalties called for the post-TD antics of Franks, Scarlett and others.
The stats and the final score didn’t really matter. This was all about having some fun with their fans and all the former players who came back for Saturday’s game.
“I wanted them to have fun out there today,” Mullen said. “That’s the one thing, in a spring game they get to do is go have fun. They’re not going to do that in the fall. I told them, ‘I don’t want anything silly. You can do Duck Duck Goose and do some funny things like that and enjoy it.’
“A lot of people forget, these are kids, they’re 18 to 22-year-old kids. They’ve got to have fun doing it. It was great to see their enthusiasm and energy. I wanted to see our players having a lot of fun out there today, and it looked like they were having fun.”
For the stat conscious, there is plenty to mull over.
The two teams combined for 65 points, 34 first downs and 687 total yards.
The numbers for the quarterbacks — Franks, Trask and Jones — reflect productive play. All three had some success moving the offense, although consistency remains an issue.
Franks completed eight of 12 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. Trask was 12 of 24 for 178 yards and a touchdown and Jones was one of three for 58 yards and a touchdown.
“One of the things that has made it easier for me this spring is just being more comfortable, just being comfortable in the pocket,” Franks said. “Being able to feel free. There is a lot more freedom in this offense with Coach Mullen
“I think it’s helped the quarterbacks a lot with just feeling more comfortable, you know, taking like quick throws if you want or doing different things within the offense. It’s helped out every quarterback.”
The quarterbacks are still in the early stages of learning the offense. Now, they have something to build on as they head into what Mullen said is a critical offseason for them — and the overall team.
“I know what to expect. The question is do they know what to expect?,” Mullen said. “We’re limited in how we can be around them. I can’t be out there while they’re throwing. We’ll talk to them about it: ‘This is what you need to do to be great.’ I’ll have other people talk to them about it.
“Get a Dak Prescott to get on the phone with them and say, ‘Hey, this is what you’ve got to do in the summer if you want to be great.’ And just keep hammering so they understand the sense of urgency and how hard they have to work to be successful.”