Gators had Swamp rolling with every counter punch

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Florida running back Lamical Perine scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday against LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Florida Gators beat the LSU Tigers 27-19. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Dan Mullen was soaked, but this time it wasn’t from a celebratory Gatorade bath like he received in Starkville. Instead, this was sweat soaking through his untucked shirt and turning his regular slick coif into a wet mess.

It was also emblematic of a coach who had just worked his tail off for the biggest win of his short UF career.

It started with jumping jack cheers before Florida entered the field and extended to a big third-down play when he was trying to get the fans fired up.

“You don’t see that from a lot of coaches,” said linebacker Vosean Joseph.

No, but Mullen knew that Florida needed every tonsil, every ounce of perspiration you could muster and he could muster and certainly his suddenly-gutsy team could muster to win this game.

If you were there, you probably don’t have anything left.

Because while Florida still isn’t all the way back, even with a huge win over the fifth-ranked team in America, The Swamp was back on a sultry Saturday.

This is the place we remember. This is the place you don’t want to play if you are a visiting team.

“The Swamp,” Mullen said, “was an intimidating place to play tonight.”

He remembers that place. And on a day when Florida tried to wake up the echoes, you could still hear the roars bouncing off the walls long after the game was over.

“It was kind of surprising to some of the younger guys who had never heard it like that,” said receiver Josh Hammond. “But I’ve seen it like this when my brother (Frankie) was playing.”

It was so loud that Feleipe Franks said he had a difficult time hearing quarterback coach Brian Johnson in his headset, which was a first.

Give the presence of Tim Tebow some credit. And the other guys from the 2008 national championship team. It was as if Gator fans wanted it to be like those days so badly, they were going to make sure they did their part.

And their team followed suit.

When adversity hit, they didn’t back away.

“We got punched right in the face and we didn’t flinch,” Mullen said.

The punches kept coming. From the opening LSU drive to the gut-wrenching Franks pick early in the second half to the two out-of-nowhere runs by LSU’s Nick Brossette on the drive that gave the Tigers the lead. (Those two carries went for 78 yards; the other 13 went for 17 total yards).

With every punch came a counter punch. So even when Joseph decided to go all Brandon Spikes and kick Brad Stewart’s touchdown into the stands (he saw the Spikes video clip on Twitter) and Florida got a penalty, Evan McPherson boomed it deep and the Gators covered.

And even when they got a facemask penalty, they covered eight passing attempts from Joe Burrow, picking off the last one so they could celebrate.

When Donovan Stiner got that last interception, Cece Jefferson knelt in the middle of the field with his head down. It was that kind of energy sapping, leave-it-all-on-the-line game.

Mullen thought back to the rope drills these guys went through in the summer.

“You get to the end of the rope and it kind of burns,” he said. “We didn’t let go of the rope.”

No matter how many times the defense was asked to run out there and hold on again, they kept responding.

“We’re built different,” Joseph said. “We just felt comfortable. We weren’t really tired.”

I don’t know about you, but I got tired just watching them.

“If they want us to keep going out there,” said tackle Kyree Campbell, “we’re just going to keep going to go out there and make plays.”

And when it was to the point where the offense had to do something after an LSU score, it came alive.

A Mullen special, taking a former baseball pitcher and running a throwback pass to set up the game-winning touchdown, was one key. So was some tough running by Lamical Perine.

“It’s been really tough mentally the last three weeks,” Perine said. “The thing I saw was a team coming together.”

The team that walked out of The Swamp after the loss to Kentucky and the team you saw last night are not the same team. This one used that loss as high octane fuel when a messy locker room situation could have been gas on a fire.

“You win by sticking together,” Mullen said. “You win by being a team. I think what they’re really doing is they’re coming together as a team. ”

That team just won another game.

One more than it won all of last year.

And it got The Swamp back, all in one day.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

36 COMMENTS

    • Funny that you say that because McElwain was undefeated at this point in his first season and also had a win over a top 5 team. In fact, he blew the doors off of the #3 team in the country. How fast people forget.

    • I remember McElwain being 6-0 and beating the #3 team in the country 38-10 at this point in his first season. And the flavor of the week Gator fans were also crowing about how coaching was such a big difference and how much better of a coach McElwain was than Muschamp. People were still bashing Muschamp and heralding McElwain as the next Spurrier. Fast forward two years later and they were all calling for McElwain to be fired, which they got. Fast forward one year and we are back to where we were three years ago. Does anyone in Gator Nation ever learn anything from history?????

  1. Just got back to my hotel room Lake City. Driving home to Galvez Louisiana in the morning. COULD NOT BE HAPPIER TO BE A GATOR! I’ve been to many games at Tiger stadium in Baton Rouge. There’s no greater home field advantage than Florida Field. It’s great to be a Florida Gator and great to be a part of the greatest home field advantage in all football!

  2. Not to bring up a bad memory but if I even hear some nut opens up a firedanmullen.com website can we have the thing delisted. I thought it was ridiculous ten years ago and who knows maybe it shied Mullen from coming back. No normal person should get that treatment. Mullen has been the best thing in ten years for this place. It’s not the genius trick plays or the method of communication..its just slways something every minute of the game where a punter or an injured linebacker makes a play to lift up his teammates…I love where the fifth string tight end threw a big pass back to the QB..and seemed more happy to get Tim tebow s autograph than anything else. Where else can you go and have this much fun..

  3. Not getting to come to the games I never realised the players werent getting the Swamp experience. So glad its back. I think the fans realize now how important it is to home success! dan Mullen sure is trying to make the fans know.

  4. Leaving all the extra garbage out of this, the thing I loved about the rise of Urban’s Gators was the sheer physical toughness of those teams. I remember a freshman Riley Cooper crushing an LSU kick returned creating a fumble; the relentless pass rush in the fourth quarter. The last five/first five minutes of the half urgency. This team is reminiscent of those. Leak didn’t run a juggernaut in the beginning; neither is Franks. But these guys are tough. Kudos to Mullen for bringing that ethos to this team. As they continue to rise, I just want them to do it the right way… the Gator way.

    • And the resurgent fan support. Foley had nothing but mumbling excuses for the empty seats the last few years of his insane reign, claiming people wouldn’t come out due to their “big televisions.” Well, now that we have an AD and a coach who reach out to the fans, who let them know they are needed and wanted, and who upgrade the stadium and put a great team on the field, guess what?

      The fans are back, and the mumbling fool and his cretinous band of weirdo coaches are all HISTORY!!!!!

  5. We finely have made a great football hire! Here’s what we have learned:
    (1) Dan Mullen and staff are far superior football coaches and managers than the past three who should not have been considered or hired.
    (2) Within a short time, Mullen and coaches, have figured out his existing personnel and resources…he knows what he’s got and how to use them.
    (3) We have existing talent to be a 10-2 team with our new superior coaching staff. (Pat: this is a good coach, not your favorite head chicken guy)
    (4) The coaching staff has successfully turned this crew into a tough hitting football team…pressuring SEC QBs and winning the games by tough hitting and pursuit…as I’ve been stating and wondering “will they decide to be the baddest guys or just play around”…they have answered as MEN…last three games they have played as aggressive as any Gator team, including the Tebow teams.
    (5) Franks is doing the best he can. That’s all he can do.

  6. “We’re built different,” Joseph said -Gatorsports.com
    I’d say, every time Joseph got hurt, I thought, ”Oh no!” And then later on, he was on the field playing again.
    The Gator ‘D’ is balling. The whole team is being coached-up, and it shows. U.K. showed they’re human against A&M Saturday, and Auburn lost to Miss. State… what’s it all mean?
    The SEC ”it just means, MORE!”
    And want ”MORE” Orange & Blue W’s baby! Go Gators!

    • Joseph is the type of football player that we need to clone. He proved that he loves his team and the game of football. If we can sign more like him I don’t care if there is a star next to his name or not! Great win GATORS and I have to brag that I stated we would win this game. GO GATORS!!!

  7. I expect the offense will continue to improve a little at a time, the coaches learned more about the offense and what works yesterday, the option was well run – hopefully they will continue to adapt and add what works like the option to help Franks gain confidence, also the O-line is improving, and with our defense and special teams they have the good fortune of time to adapt, improve and grow. Great team win!

    • They differentiate between tickets sold and attendance, so it may well have sold out even if you saw some empty seats. I saw a bunch of upper deck space when the game first started, but it was pretty full by the end of the first quarter. Not sure if it was late arrivals or if there was some issue with getting people into the stadium, but it was pretty good.

  8. Franks may not be all the way there yet, but he took a huge step forward in my eyes and I have a lot of respect for him now. The single play that turned it around for me was the play he got sandwiched by 3 defenders. The look on his face when he was down, I thought he was done. If that happened last season, he would’ve been done mentally for the rest of the game. He would’ve played scared and made stupid decisions and lost the game. Instead he wiped it off and led them to a win. Franks you earned this Gator fans respect big time. Keep playing hard and improving and lead this team to greatness.