Swamp Party: Gators have fun in Orange & Blue Game

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Florida Gators defensive lineman Antonneous Clayton (90) and Florida Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (23) enjoy a rousing we are the boys of old Florida after annual Orange and Blue spring football at Ben Hill Griffin stadium in Gainesville Florida on Saturday. Blue won 35-30. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesvil­le Sun]

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.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. I enjoyed the game. I think at the end of the day the players and coaches are feeling pretty good about the progress that has been made. I was impressed with Sproles hustle and TD pass to Saldivar at the end. Was fun to watch.

  2. What a great day to be a Gator! I’ve been going to games for 50+ years and this has to be one of the best Orange & Blue games I’ve attended. So glad Coach Mullen will be our coach for years to come!

  3. Great Gator turn out. Enjoyed the game & seeing the players, coaches, alumni & fans all having a good time. Thank you Coach Mullen. Go Gators!

  4. The game certainly was a blast. Everybody seemed to have fun and it wasn’t the typical dressed practice style as we have had the last several years. Bringing back former players was really great. Here’s to a season as fun and as exciting as the Orange and Blue game.

  5. The players needed this… they really, REALLY needed this.

    After the total disaster the previous staff created of this program, the players (and the fans too), NEEDED this. This program and this team was mired in a state of lethargy, depression, and and self doubt… these players had zero faith in themselves or in their coaches to lead them.

    And this game yesterday which was also a massive “therapy session”, exercised a lot of the frustrations prevalent within this program. These kids learned that football could be FUN again.

    I’m not expecting NC’s or SEC Titles in Year One of Mullen, just consistent forward progress and consistency and improvement on a determined learning curve for the players in the new systems.

    But I’m going to hand it to Coach Mullen… what he accomplished yesterday with the way he organized this game was truly astounding in the sense of confidence and focus for this team. It was a brilliant psychological exercise that brought the team together and let them know Gaor Nation supports them and to always give 110%.

    I loved it. Hope to see more of this in the Mullen Era at UF.

    • I agree. The most disappointing thing I saw Saturday was that Franks appears to be the same clueless QB that he was last year. Unless he makes significant progress in the summer, which will be difficult since there will be no live action, I can’t help but hope that Trask, or even Jones, secures the starting job in the fall. Either of them may not be the answer but at least there is hope since we have not seen them play in an actual game. Maybe Mullen is a miracle worker and he can turn Franks around but that may be too much to ask of any coach.

  6. Game was fun. We stayed afterwards and met a dozen or so players (and one former player-Teez!) All of them were respectful and polite and more than happy to sign autographs and take pictures…especially enjoyed meeting Randy Russell and Luke Ancrum…great memories for my kids! Go Gators!

  7. The atmosphere was tremendous as was the energy. The game however was a sham. Mullen is trying to win over the fans because he knows he will never win a SEC title or National title. He’s Mark Richt. He will be 9-3 10-2 with nothing to show for it. Getting old players involved, have the DDefense stop blitzing and stop tackling after the first quarter, are all signs our offense has made no progress. Our defense looked great. But still same ol Florida. Not convinced this is a good hire. Just because someone has energy doesn’t mean they are a great coach. He’s a good coach but his record is of the likes of Butch Jones not Urban Meyer or Steve Spurrier. The way the team looked Saturday his 7-34 record against Top 25 teams is going to continue to move in the wrong direction.

    • Your interpretation is one thing, Bobby, so good for you. No kidding…well defended and logical. I believe, however, that you’re wrong in your premise about National Championships and SEC titles. as well as the comparisons to Butch Jones and Mark Richt. You’re right about the lack of correlation between energy and great coaches though……Ron Zook being a prime example of that.

      Dan Mullen was the prime mover behind the last two NCs at Florida. His record at MSU is remarkable given the conditions. He knows the Gator culture better than any other first year coach except Steve Spurrier. He’s capable of leveling the recruiting delta between our two main in-state rivals. He’s a good bet, in other words. What more can you ask for?

    • I am still one who believes in DM.
      Sat game was disappointing to me. (watched on TV)
      I wanted to see improved OL and QB. I did not see that.

      What i saw was unproductive offenses.
      Then What i heard- after the offenses failed a couple times DM “saying we got to get some points on the board”.
      What i saw was no offense until artificial TD’s from celebrity TD’s and QB run.
      What i saw was def backs fouling early so receivers could not catch ball. (no call)
      What i saw was players kicking ball out of end zone . ( hope i do not see that in a real game)

      It did look like everyone was having fun after the artificial TD stuff started.
      If fun was objective then it was a success

  8. “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….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.”

    This is the quote that shows that Mullen gets it. You can’t win a spring game, so just enjoy it. These kids have been working their butts off for weeks. The practices are what you have to win, not this scrimmage.
    The defensive players have seen the offense every day at practice and the entire team is split up with a draft. It will never be pretty and flawless. I think Mullen understands when there is need for intensity and when it is time to just lighten up a bit.

  9. See where the Noles charged $10 for attending their spring game. Gators attended the game FREE. Guess they need every dime they can muster to keep things solvent over there. I watched the game on TV. Watched a re-run of the game last night fast forwarding to each play. Running backs looked good. Everyone was having a great time. Good to see the old players get into the game and “score a touchdown”. Looked like Kyle Trask might be the man with the skills we need for the future although Jones looked good in the few minutes he played. Jury is still out on Franks as far at I am concerned. Exciting run for a touchdown on his part, however. Can hardly wait for the first game. Team should have jelled by that time. Mulleb is doing a great job,

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