Confidence focal point of improvement, UF’s success at Vandy

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Florida coach Dan Mullen talks to quarterback Feleipe Franks during Saturday's game against LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/ The Gainesville Sun]

Dan Mullen’s attention quickly turned to his quarterback, Feleipe Franks, after Saturday’s 27-19 win over LSU.

Franks had turned in a just-good-enough performance, albeit against a stout Tigers defense, but had made a potentially costly mistake in the end zone, in addition to completing less than 50 percent of his passes.

It was improvement, sure, but there was no time to become complacent.

For it was clear Florida’s immediate success continued to hinge on Franks’ gradual improvement. The defense had done an exemplary job Saturday afternoon, and UF’s special teams had consistently given the Gators an advantage — meaning Franks’ progress each week would often be the difference-maker in close contests.

After imploring Franks to lock in and keep improving, Mullen took the lectern 10 minutes later and spoke in general terms about the program’s need to focus on all-around improvement.

“You look at today’s game and we did a lot of things that we got to improve on, that you got to do better,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to improve on the things that we didn’t do well today, but I’m certainly pleased with how we battled, how we fought for four quarters to go find a way to beat one of the top five teams in the country.”

Franks later echoed Mullen’s message, insisting the Gators would rightfully celebrate before soon turning the focus back toward improving.

“I think we have to be a lot better on third downs. By no means was I good enough,” Franks said, “but at the same time we are going to enjoy a win.”

By now, Florida and Franks have heard the rumblings of a potential “trap game” awaiting the team in Nashville when the Gators take on Vanderbilt at 12 p.m. in the team’s final test before the open week.

The real test for Franks and the offense lies in finding an ideal balance. UF has newfound winning mentality and should seek to embrace it, yet the Gators will look to avoid the complacency that often comes with confidence.

“You come to Florida to play in big-time games like that. I mean, a top-five opponent, who doesn’t want to play in that? Go out there and get banged up, continue to fight —  that’s fun,” Franks said. “I’m getting more comfortable, but at the same time I think our whole team, our whole offense is getting more comfortable.”

Mullen, who has been vocal about tailoring the offense around the skill set of his personnel, emphasized that was the plan all along. Mullen and the coaching staff didn’t simply develop a game plan ideal for beating the Tigers — the offense was designed to continue building Franks’ confidence, which has been pointed to as one of the key factors in the redshirt sophomore QB’s progress to date.

If Florida comes out Saturday in a similar fashion to last weekend’s 27-19 statement win, the Gators should emerge as victors over the Commodores — but the first half of the season has made clear that the success of the program lies in Franks and the Gators remaining confident in order to continue improving.

Will it lead to why the team began playing the game in the first place — to have fun? Who knows? The quarterback of Florida’s defense, junior linebacker David Reese, seems to think so.

“Have fun out there, learn what you need to learn during practice, be confident in what you do and try to celebrate with the guys,” Reese said, “because that’s what you’re doing. You’re playing football with your guys out in the backyard at the end of the day.”


Saturday

Who: No. 14 Florida (5-1, 3-1 SEC) vs. Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-2)

When: 12 p.m.

Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM. AM-850

31 COMMENTS

  1. Reese sums up how it should be! They get to play a game and audition for the NFL, while getting a degree. I hope they can be happy warriors and enjoy playing this game, they are blessed and we enjoy their success even more when they seem to have fun and enjoy what they have going for them.

  2. While we we having fun out there, we should also be building depth on Saturday, especially with Georgia coming up in two weeks, This means building a dominating score in the first half and then inserting Pierce at RB, Trask and Emory at QB, the new TE’s, and our entire second team. Let’s coach them up and get them ready for the second half of the season. That’s having SMART fun!

  3. I would love for this team to come out and make a strong “we are back” statement before heading to Jacksonville to play Georgia two weeks later. Something like Florida 55, Vandy 10. That would wake some people up in the media (but likely not Pat or Robbie), and that kind of lopsided score and beat down would no doubt get the attention of some puppy dogs.

  4. KG. If Florida wins 20 to 17, it means it does not matter what Georgia decides or thinks. Florida needs a statement game to go into Jacksonville with the confidence and the ability to execute well enough to beat a team like Georgia.

  5. I agree that the team needs to improve. Vandy is usually an issue especially their defense. I would like to beat them worse than any other team this year. Run the ball effectively and when their defense adapts get that big play. I trust this staff to have a good plan and if needed to adjust during the game or at half time. Go Gators!!!

    • Play calling has only seemed to improve because the offense has. There is a limit to what Mullen can call based on the offenses ability to execute. Mullen calls all the plays and I assure you he hasnt gotten any better in the last few weeks of his lengthy career!

  6. you could argue all day about the offense scoring needless points, if they are worth it, or is the goal time management and making the crucial plays on offense, which i think this whole confidence discussion is about. i defer to the coaches calls mostly on this, of course the fans love scoring. however, during games like georgia and south carolina, i will want to run up the score. every time. right or wrong.

  7. Vandy has usually played the Gators with intensity, which the Gators have not matched. Close games are common when these two teams get together. I am not expecting a blowout, and will be satisfied with a win. Each game is a thing to itself and means little for games to come.

  8. Not so fast my friends at realistically thinking blowout. This is a morning game 11:00 AM kickoff Nashville time. Florida always plays poorly for early kick off games. I cannot remember the last time Florida played well in the first half for an 11:00 AM game. I believe Florida wins this in a close game again but it will take half time adjustments for Florida to play better in the 2nd half to pull it out in the 4th quarter. Gators lacking any bite early until they wake up. If Florida in past years have played early home kickoff games so poorly, what makes anyone believe this team playing away and still trying to find their way on offense will come out and light it up? Let’s see if Dan Mullen can change these habits of looking so flat in the early game.

  9. Perhaps it is not fair to compare Franks to Tebow, but by this time in his development, Tebow far exceeded what Franks has done. Franks is athletic, but it seems he still does not have the vision to see who is open and his accuracy is very inconsistent. Granted, LSU has a very good defense. For Franks to impress me, he needs to have several games where he completes 2/3 to 3/4 of his passes. He no longer has the excuse that his receivers are limited in numbers and talent. So this is my challenge to Franks – you must become much more consistent and must find the best open receiver and must complete your passes. GO GATORS!!!

    • Why are you going there Glen? Of course you shouldn’t compare Franks to Tebow so don’t go there. In his second year Tebow was winning a Heisman and taking us to a NC. Franks? Give me a freaking break, hopefully Franks will turn out to be half as good as Tebow by next year or the following. Right now Franks is still a work in progress with potential but with many liabilities and inconsistencies.

    • Tebow had 5 star talent on the O line and also Percy Harvin who was a beast. Franks is only a sophomore and is still developing, give him some time. I know we want Florida to be back to a national powerhouse, but we’re not yet. We have to support Franks despite his mental flaws at times. I actually like Franks!

  10. Been looking at Bama. Ark scored 31 points on them and Ark isnt very good. Bama hasnt played any substantial team yet. Its easy to play great against scrubs. Look how good UF looked the 1st 2 games of the season, then came UK! My point is, several teams have put some points on Bama. To me it looks like they dont have a great defense. Sure they scored 65 on Ark, but Ark isnt very good on defense. I believe the 1st game Bama has to play somebody they are going to be exposed. Theyre super soft schedule hasnt done them any favors. Teams need real competition to get better and to really gauge themselves. Everyone keeps saying how unbeatable they are but it appears to me they are very beatable. To me Ga appears to be a harder test. Cant wait till bama plays LSU, it will be theyre toughest game on their schedule by a mile and it will be revealing!
    Im so looking forward to the LSU-Ga matchup, it will tell me just how well the Gators matchup to Ga. If LSU can hang, so can we and if they get blownout, watchout!

    • Same thing with GA except the other way around (really good D , not so good O ) . The point is that both have weakness’s that can be exploited by a good coaching staff. Speaking of which, I love the approach that CDM and his staff take to play calling, read an article on another site where Dan said that they take a committee approach and each coach has input such as Gonzales saying ” player X is having his way with that cornerback and I think we should try an XYZ ” or Hevesy saying ” the right side is getting a good push and Wanny is killing that end, I think we should run a XYZ ” . Just imagine you and 4 or 5 of your best buds all sitting around player a game of Madden and your all very good at it, except your all playing with the same team, and taking a committee approach on what plays to run. This is a VERY intelligent staff that has been together for years and has fantastic chemistry because of it. They understand how to game plan to work around your weakness’s and exploit the warts on the opposition. They’re also very good at seeing what the opponent is doing and using their own strengths against them. It’s been a long time since we have seen things like in game adjustments and competent clock management. The best part is its only going to get better from here…