Dan Mullen’s goal Saturday night?
Be at the front of the line when the Florida Gators take the field for the first time with him as their head coach.
“And then get out of the way,” he said.
The new Florida football coach will make his debut at The Swamp, a place he knew well as an offensive coordinator and a stadium where he has won on the other sideline as the Mississippi State coach.
But this will be different.
This is the beginning of an era.
Florida fans hope it will be the beginning of something else.
Like winning home games. And offense. And improved special teams. And offense. And discipline on both sides of the ball. Did we mention offense?
Mullen will jog out onto the field without any real superstitions about what to wear or anything lucky in his pockets.
“My only superstition,” he said, “is that we play really hard.”
He will go on a Gator Walk that started when he was an assistant, dressed in whatever his wife picked out for him.
“My wife does a wonderful job of picking out what to wear for the Gator Walk,” he said. “And I’ll wear (for the game) whatever the equipment guys lay out for me. I have my little routine I kept to myself.”
Gator fans hope one routine he has is winning the way Florida used to when he was working for Urban Meyer.
The opponent is Charleston Southern, which will pocket $475,000 for making the trip to Gainesville. But everyone knows this day isn’t about who Florida is playing.
It’s about the fact that Florida is playing.
STATS THAT MATTER
Five statistics you need to know on opening day:
1. Charleston Southern wide receiver Kameron Brown led the Big South Conference in yards per catch averaging 22.1 yards a reception. That total was good for eighth-place nationally among FCS schools. He will be a challenge for Florida’s secondary.
2. Although Florida’s streak of opening day wins was snapped last year by Michigan, the Gators have won 28 straight HOME openers since a loss to Ole Miss in 1989. Four times Florida has opened on Sept. 1 with wins over Bowling Green in 2012, Western Kentucky in 2007, Marshall in 2001 and a loss to Miami in Tampa in 1984.
3. Florida has scored in 372 straight games, which is an NCAA record. The Gators broke Michigan’s mark last season.
4. The most rushing yards for Florida ever for an opening game was 369 in 2009. The opponent? Charleston Southern. Florida won 62-3 and Chris Rainey had a 76-yard scoring run on his only carry of the game.
5. Dan Mullen went 7-2 in his openers as the head coach at Mississippi State. The losses were to Oklahoma State in 2013 and South Alabama in 2016. Last year, the Bulldogs opened with Charleston Southern and won 49-0.