Notebook: Heated coaches’ confrontation fuels Gators comeback

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Florida coach Dan Mullen, center, is restrained during a verbal confrontation with Vanderbilt coaches and players in the first half Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. [Mark Humphrey/Associated Press]

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Florida had already started its comeback late in the first half Saturday when both benches emptied and a potential brawl ensued following a targeting penalty on linebacker James Houston.

But the heated exchange between players and some coaches, along with UF linebacker Vosean Joseph being ejected with his second unsportsmanlike penalty (one on him, one on the UF bench), lit a fire under the Gators, wide receiver Van Jefferson said.

It helped fuel the comeback performance by the Gators.

“That kind of motivated us,” Jefferson said. “Especially coach (Nick) Savage and all the strength coaches. They were turning us up. They motivated us a little bit more.

“They were just saying, ‘Hey, they want to disrespect you guys. Go out there and take it over now.’ That’s what we did.”

During the incident there was some salty language exchanged between UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason and one of his assistants.

UF coach Dan Mullen downplayed the potential fracas after UF’s 37-27 win.

“We’re not going to get into that publicly at all,” he said. “Derek’s a great, really close friend of mine. And I think, our sideline, we’ve got to make sure we’re cleaner in that situation and he probably thinks the same thing, but there’s nothing carrying over from that and nothing to get into publicly.”

The Gators lost two linebackers to ejection during the incident — Joseph for a second unsportsmanlike penalty and Houston for targeting.

“We got in the locker room and I said, ‘Hey, everybody’s got an unsportsmanlike penalty, so get another and you’re thrown out of the game,’ ” Mullen said. “That was about it. It was more about the football part of it all to me, let’s be smart and play football.

“Because it’s not like we were perfect between the whistles, from snap to whistle. It wasn’t like we were like a juggernaut in the first half right there with how we were executing and playing. Let’s put the focus back on that and get back to execution.”

Two 100-yard guys

Speaking of execution, that’s exactly what the Gators had in the running game Saturday. They had two running backs — Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine — rush for more than 100 yards.

Scarlett had 121 and a touchdown, while Scarlett rushed for 113 and a TD. Coming into Saturday’s game, no UF back had rushed for 100 yards in a game this season.

“We were tired of hearing everybody say other schools have got great running backs,” Scarlett said. “We knew how good we were and what we could do. We just needed to get the ball in our hands and show the world what was going on. I’m glad that we got to showcase that today.”

Success on the ground led to success through the air, quarterback Feleipe Franks said.

“The running backs had a really good day,” Franks said. “I told them all throughout the game that they set up every opportunity for me to throw the ball, the way they run downhill and with power.

“Our running backs had a really good day and it helped me out a lot.”

Too many big plays

Florida’s overall defensive performance was OK, but not up to recent standards. And the Gators continued to be vulnerable at times, giving up big plays.

In Saturday’s game, the defense gave up a 75-yard screen pass for a touchdown, a 43-yard run and two pass plays of more than 20 yards.

“Some of them, I think we’re going to see a lack of effort. I think some we’re going to have an MA, a missed assignment,” Mullen said. “On some, I don’t think we strained to the level that’s expected to erase and eliminate a big play.

“Guys have got to understand, if one guy makes a big mistake for a big play, everybody else can’t sit there and say, ‘Hey, I did my job.’ We need guys to erase it. Hey, they created a big play. Erase it. They got a 12-yard play, 13, 14-yard play, erase it and make sure that’s the end of it and make sure it doesn’t go any further.”

Jefferson celebrates return

It was a happy homecoming for Jefferson, who played his high school ball at Ravenwood High School in Nashville. His 38-yard TD reception late in the third quarter was a pivotal play in UF’s comeback.

“It was nice, especially here in Nashville,” Jefferson said. “I had a lot of family and high school teammates and friends here. It was pretty exciting.”

Jefferson credits Franks with holding the team together Saturday when things were tough early, then making plays when he had to in the second half.

“Feleipe did a great job of keeping our offense ready,” he said. “It was really Feleipe who got the offense together. We made the adjustments at halftime and came out here and won.

“That’s just Feleipe. He’s hardworking and doesn’t let anything faze him. He came out and did his thing today. He had two turnovers, but just kept playing.”

49 COMMENTS

  1. At 21 to 3 I reminded some non gator fan near me that the Gators we’re playing just about this way against Kentucky and still almost won. Grantham may get grioedi about but the defense was still good enough to win and ended their third straight win with an interception. Go gators!

    • Agreed. We don’t even know what Joseph was doing during that whole situation. Wasn’t it Doug Johnson who threw a football at Bobby Bowden one year? As for Houston being ejected for targeting, the replay I saw showed him hitting the player square with his shoulder. It didn’t look to me like his helmet even made contact. That looked like a bogus call. The officiating left a lot to be desired in that game.

      • Crack back blocks are illegal now, as they should be (has nothing to do with leading with the helmet, or helmet to helmet contact). Watch that play again and ask yourself if a blindside block like that should be legal against a player who is tracking the ball carrier with his eyes. I used to coach crack back plays/blocks with my youth teams back in the day. Eventually stopped doing it because it just wasn’t right. It’s a positive rule change imo. — I’m not commenting on the rest of the officiating, just that one play and rule.

          • Only saw the replay on my phone with no audio, so I should of said I defer to you & the others watching on the specific call SI. I saw it as a crack back.

          • I’m not an expert on the rules but I seem to remember some analyst saying a while back that if he left his feet/flying through the air with a hit that it was illegal. It did appear he was launching himself into the block. Maybe that was it.

          • Scott, I think the targeting rule (mis-named imo) includes some instances of launching, as Sly mentions, and/or a hit on a “defenseless” player, regardless of whether there is leading with the helmet or launching. It’s a complicated rule and almost as impossible to figure as it is to figure out what constitutes a catch in the NFL.

  2. I saw Houston’s helmet strike the Vandy player’s shoulder, too, and have seen a replay that bears it out. The officiating at times was substandard. That’s what irked Mullen. On the positive side, after spotting Vandy an 18-point lead the Gators outscorrd the Commodores 34-6. That’s really good, don’t you think? This Florida team will take valuable lessons from this victory. I now favor us to knock off UGA.

    • The officials were very inconsistent in the first half, but they cleaned it up in the second. Not sure if it was Mullen working them or they got a call from SEC office, but it was maddening. Still, we were beating ourselves and cleared that up as well. Agree on the lessons being huge. Since we won, I am actually glad they got down early and has the chance to fight back. It all worked out perfectly.

    • Just the opposite, Fellas we have a problem! Some Gator teams are just good no matter where they play. They dont need the swamp and home field advantage to win, like the 2008 team. This team is another matter altogether. It is clear after today that this is a team that desperately needs the Swamp to win. This team today COULD NOT beat LSU on a neutral field, much less Death Valley. Guess what? vs Ga is on a neutral field! LSU manhandled Ga at Death Valley today! Of our games left, Vandy was the weakest team by far of any SEC team we are to face. I will say we will win any game at the swamp the rest of the year but away is another matter. Fortunately, only Ga and FSU arent at home! To be run and thrown on like that by VANDY is pitiful. To have to come back from 18 down against the WEAK Vandy team is ominous! Vandy: who lost to ND 22-17, to SC 37-14(at home) and to Ga 41-13 and barely beat TN State (at home) 31-27! I never doubted they would win, even at 18 down; I was never nervous even though I had over 1K on the line, which I doubled, BTW. Theres no way Im going to pick them to win any away game, its just not clear what team will show up! Even if you dont agree with me , no one can deny that this team is terribly inconsistent! I dont see any way forward that they beat Ga on a neutral field. Play like today and they will be crushed(because Vandy was our weakest SEC opponent)!! Yes they are awesome at home with over 90k screaming , deafening roaring fans to unsettle the opposition, but away we just have no idea! This game should have never been close, it should have been a blowout. Most of you are talking about this win like Vandy was equal to upper teams in the SEC, they arent! So what, we came back on a very weak team that we should beat and should have blown out, Big deal!

      • daz – I have been stating for the last couple of weeks that Franks needs to get the ball out of his hands to his play makers asap. He was doing that on that first drive and they moved that offense down the field until that INT. This is what Franks needs to continue to do with different looks. He should be able to connect closer to these play makers as a couple of his passes out quick could have been intercepted. If Franks can run the hurry up offense and get the ball out quickly, then we have a decent chance to beat GA. in Jax. The defense was out-coached in the first half as Vandy used the GATORS speed and aggressiveness against them. Vandy had two great weapons that should have had a GATOR responsible for them regardless of where they lined up. I am happy about the “W” but the way we won had heart attack written all over it…LOL. We have two weeks to prepare for GA. GO GATORS!!!

        • I dont have much problem with the offense and Int’s are going to happen. Franks actually was 65.5% in this game, but what would you expect against a near cupcake. The 1st 2 scores never should have happened and the defense undisciplined penalties pretty much insured the 3rd TD after the int’s great field position. They were up 3 scores primarily from an undisciplined defense.
          Heres where their problem started. “During his radio show on Thursday before the game Dan Mullen warned that the team hadn’t had a great week of practice and it showed.” You play like you practice and apparently the players decided to waste this week of practice, that they could have been getting better for Ga, since they didnt need it for this overmatched team. Because of that the defense played undisciplined on Vandy’s 1st 2 TD drives. Then franks 2nd turnover gave them great field position and UF undisciplined defensive penalties gave them the goal line and a 3rd TD. It took the perceived slight of being “disrespected”(a term I cant stand for the attitude that goes with it)from the melee, for the defense to buckle down and to allow in the 2nd half just 138 yards, 16 running and 6 points, holding them to 2 of 8(25%) on 3rd down and their only turnover. For the offense to score like they did was no biggee because it was Vandy! It was expected on such an overmatched opponent, so that wasnt impressive at all. Again, play like this against Ga and they will be steamrolled. play like this against Mo and they dont come back to win or probably SC either. There was no reality in the comments here, its like everyone forgot this was Vandy we were playing, and instead acting like it was something great they just did. This was done to the closest thing to a cupcake in the SEC there is! Sure it was great they won, and sure it was fun to watch the comeback, but it was against Vandy! No great accomplishment. After the way they had been playing the last few weeks I really thought they had gotten better than to come out and lay an egg like this, and have to make a huge comeback to win and it taking being disrespected to motivate them to clamp down and play like they are supposed to. They had me believing they had a chance at the east title. Hopefully this will give the coaches another thing to kick them in the pants like UK to get these guys to play disciplined football all the time(both halves, it looked like MSU 1st half) and to put their all into every game and every play like a champion!
          Someone pointed out in another story they did have 2 road wins; here’s what I had to say about that:
          When we played Tn and MSU they had terrible records and we expected to win so they arent any great example of winning on the road. MSU was so bad that I bet the house and won over 2 grand because I knew they were going to win. Their record showed it and I told everyone on here all that week that we were going to win. Does any one on here bother to examine an opponents record? Yet MSU is a perfect example of what I said. Even though the Gators should have won easily they struggled to pull out a very low scoring game. They spent the 1st half playing very undisciplined defense. Had they played them in the Swamp it wouldnt have even been close. Im not believing , but hoping the coaches can bust their backsides these next 2 weeks and we will see a different team come out on neutral ground in Jax that plays disciplined defense from the start of the game and can play like they have a 12th man, even with the stadium half red and black!

          • Dude, it’s obvious you r not a Gator or SEEc aficionado. Otherwise u wouldn’t make such blatantly misguided comments. The facts are that the Gators have won 5 in a row, including two road SEC games. With Tennessee’s win over Auburn, even that win has more relevance to this season. So, unless I learn otherwise, I’m considering u a troll, and this will be my last response to you!!

          • I have two scores for you: 28-21 and 25-19. Those were the UF-Vandy scores for 1996 and 2006. I would encourage you to check out how those teams fared if you don’t know already.

          • I certainly remember those games. If aliens landed and watched an individual UF-Vandy game they might consider these relatively equally matched teams; not 40-10-2 for one team. I think it may be because before Spurrier, Vandy and UF had similar football histories (if u disregard a couple of Pell’s 80’s teams). It seems as though Vandy plays above their talent level when they play UF. I’ll go back even further, to the ’74 Gator team that came within a piss-poor referee call (thank god for replay now) of beating Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl. Vandy beat UF 24-10 ( I listened on WRUF radio) and they manhandled the Gators in that game. I remember the Doug Dickey show on Sunday where Dickey spoke his infamous quote after a Gator loss; “Well, Gator fans, we failed to avoid losing”. The way Vandy plays UF always makes me sweat, we usually prevail, but not without many anxious moments throughout the game. So, I’m ecstatic after any UF win over Vandy as I am now.

          • Stop drinking Daz. This was a trap game and we found a way to not only overcome the possible trap, but we also overcame the refs whom almost single handedly took this game over in the first half. Not only did we find a way to win, but we did it without two of our top four linebackers in the second half. We erased the 18 point deficit and won by 10. Overcoming adversity like this, is what championship teams are made of. That being said, I do not think this team is National Championship ready, but they sure are headed in the right direction. Apparently Daz didn’t watch the Miss St. game because that place was rocking and they wanted nothing more than to beat their ex-ball coach. Need I say more…. The Gators are doing great, they are growing each week, and I am so grateful to have Mullen coaching this team. Good times ahead boys, let’s go beat Georgia.

          • Daz I agree sloppy play cost us in the first half. Add the fact that Vandy always plays us tough and I think that though they have lost a lot they are better than one might think. Played ND close and Tn St has one of those offenses that give teams fits. Depth hurt Vandy in the end. We are getting better just not as evenly and quickly as I would like. We have won the last 3 away games. Maybe not pretty but w’s are w’s. We’ve got 5 games left. ALL are winnable it’s just a matter of to steal 6’s word the amount of gumption the players have on gameday. I will say that the discipline issue on penalties may be the difference someday.

          • 65 — Vandy is not as bad as their record would make you think, and you’re exactly right….despite some good players, they totally lack the depth to play in the SEC year to year. I’m surprised that they can even recruit as well as they do, actually; probably a testament to Mason’s personality and drive more than anything else. Apparently there were more Florida fans in the stands than their own — doesn’t that say it all?

            I think Mason took the job there expecting Vanderbilt to make an investment in facilities. Maybe they would have if Franklin had stayed, but then again maybe not. Wouldn’t it be something if they ever did tho? I could see them becoming the Stanford of the SEC in relatively short order. One thing about them that will likely never change however: They play us like it was the Super Bowl!

      • Daz you’re like a human roller coster. One minute they’re not winning another game the rest of the year, then the next minute they’re beating everyone, and now they won’t beat any good teams on the road. What some people are forgetting is the fact that this team is exhausted after playing 3 very tough and emotional SEC games that everyone thought they would lose. One of those was a win against a pretty good team on the road by the way. This totally had the makeup of a let down game. It started out that way, but they corrected the mistakes and won rather easily. Let’s not start making claims about the rest of the season based off this one game. Hell how many top 10 teams lost this week? They’ll get their much needed break this week and come back refreshed and ready to face the Dawgs. Relax, the team is in good hands and they’ll play strong the rest of the season.

        • Joe, Daz has been on here for a long time and he walks to the beat of his own drum on just about everything. That’s not a bad way to be when a lot of group think is going on — we used to call it “independent thinking” before the word “troll” was invented. Yeah, he can sure piss you off when he gets wound up, but we’d no doubt miss him if he was gone…..he’s a Gator thru and thru.

  3. Love that fire in both of these coaches. That’s why the SEC is a cut above the rest. They also had conciliatory words on the field immediately after the game.

    No team can play at a high emotional intensity week after week. There’s going to be ebbs and flows. That’s why the Vandy and Kentucky games are usually more of a mental than physical challenge to our teams.

    • Mullen said it himself that they didn’t have a great week of practice and that the strain and stress of the last three weeks kind of caught up with them. They are getting better with the mental toughness but to think this early in CDM’s tenure that they won’t have any setbacks is unrealistic. He’s done a hell of a job so far and our future is bright!

    • CDM mentioned that after the game; after 3 emotional games the Gators were a little drained. It might be a little bit of revisionist history, but it certainly is plausible. Remember most of thes same players phoned it in last year after the McEloser debacle. They have to relearn what kind of intensity it takes to make it through the season. But as I have mentioned, I like this team’s grit. Something we didn’t see out of last year’s team.

  4. If I had the energy I would put “I won’t Back Down” over the footage of Mullen and Grantham mother*&^%^ the loudmouth Vandy coaches. It was actually great to see as far as I am concerned. Punch me in the mouth, I punch you right back. Come over and run your mouth at me and my team? It’s going to take three people to hold me back. Then, like a man, Mullen goes right back over after the game and settles it.

    • Jaws can’t get mad at the coach being upset about a illegal block that should have been coached by Mullen, he was over their because his player was down and injured on that’s of the field. They both showed a positive end to the game. That’s the truth

    • Jaws that moment on the field could have swayed the game for either team. I don’t think Vandy could have won but they could have rallied and got something going on the emotion of a man down. Florida used the ejections as motivation to show they had more than that and did so in fashion. As to emotion they were likely spent coming in riding on that 4 game streak where many thought we were done after KY. If it weren’t for S&C this year they would have caved a few weeks ago. Illegal blocks happen and will continue that is football and the offender will be penalized. All that I’m saying is these guys are tough and can scratch and claw their way out of trouble and find a way to win. That mental and physical toughness was absent before. We might not be a #1 team yet but we have the underpinnings to become one. Mullen said one thing that must be fixed about assignments. A team must have each others back. If someone missed their assignment the others must have that mans back and finish the play, he used erase the mistake. That is selfless teamwork and they still have to learn that. We’ve seen flashes of that but it is not in all of them yet. GO GATORS get some DAWG for lunch next week. I have a picture of a bull dog named GATOR wearing Gator colors (collar & leash) . I asked the owner about him. Said he hates UGA and his brother loves ’em. Gotta love football fans. GO GATORS.
      I used part of this earlier this year. This is a quote from the Battle of Midway by Walter Lord
      They had no right to win but the did, and in doing so changed the course of the war… Even against the greatest of odds, There is something in the human spirit a magic blend of skill, faith and valor- That can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory. No comparing football to WWII is a bit much but the motivation behind the words could be used today. How many teams has this fit over the years? Last weekend even. Change war to season and it fits well with the ebb and flow of the year. Will they be up to the task?

  5. The dang no hold calls is what keep us from sacking!!! Hopefully, this Ref team is in big analytical trouble after there review. Badly called game….PERIOD…it did make a difference. We have Coaching, Woo Hoo, nice come back job.

  6. I hate hearing critiques from people who never graced a football field….and if you did, you have forgotten the struggles and ups/downs of a game and season! This program was beat down under Mac-Nuss era. They had no confidence or fight in them! THIS YEAR….I SEE THAT! I see a team that fights through adversity, overcomes bad play, has confidence in the staff! Clean up the me me me penalties and we have a GREAT product! And…this team is just beginning to mature! Are they on national standard…not yet! Has Mullen and staff made huge strides and improvement, better moral and excitement? Can i get a GO GATORS!
    So…all you whiners and overly high expectation fans…go take up tennis…football isnt the TEAM sport you need to be commenting on. And if you have never played the game or coached it above rec level…DO NOT COMMENT with your expertise! Thanks

  7. If you want to really get a feel for how good a coaching staff we now have, lets just watch what happens to Miss St the rest of this year and next year. With a chunk of their staff here now, including the most important piece, I think they will revert back to the dogs of old, and be lucky to make a bowl every other year. True they still have the players CDM recruited and coached up, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that CDM is a great in-game coach, and he and Grantham have put together some great game plans, and they have poise. Oh, and they can actually coach up the players. Franks looks much better this year, and is improving every week.

    And FWIW, I loved their intensity on the sideline. You need passion to play this game, and I think, to coach it as well. CDM is already my 2nd favorite head coach at UF, following the ol HBC himself.

    Go Gators!

  8. For anyone who thinks that Vandy lost a game they should have won, let me tell you they should have lost by 30+. The Gators ran over them all game long, 92 plays and most of them runs, almost 600 yards of total offense to 250+ for Vandy. Also, the targeting call didn’t have to be called as our guy didn’t lead with the helmet and the Vandy guy was ahead of our runner and was looking back at him to line him up for a tackle. He was not a defenseless player he was in position to possibly make the play for the tackle. I believe they called targeting because they said the Gatorleft his feet and launched into the block, which is legit. But that’s it. Not as flagrant as D. Mason made it out to be. The Nashville paper wrote an entire story whining about it saying we are a dirty team, always have been always will be, blah blah. The Nashville paper is used to making excuses for Vandy losses.

  9. You don’t win them all, ask Tebow and re-read his “Promise.”
    Let’s remember this Vandy team almost beat Notre Dame this year.
    Our team kept fighting and pulling the rope and got back in the game.
    Mullen has this team playing with a continuous improvement mindset and relentless effort. They are 6-1.
    Over 500 yards of O is awesome. Sounds like enough to beat Ga.
    BTW- Once again the trick play fake punt changed the momentum of the game. Keep up the trickeration!

    • Boy, you’re right about that Smith — good call. What I like about our situation now is that Dan Mullen is also apparently part of that locker room….enough to keep his finger on the pulse…..but not so much that he can’t remain independent in his judgement as the coach. At least that’s what I’ve pieced together and perceived this season — truly a commander’s balance. I think that alone is going to pay huge dividends down the road too.