With Florida coming home after winning back-to-back SEC road games in hostile environments, coach Dan Mullen is calling out Gator fans to step up their game.
He’s challenging them to fill The Swamp on Saturday for the LSU game and create the kind of atmosphere the Gators once had when he was the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and UF was playing for championships.
Mullen said it starts with the students, who have had low turnouts for games in recent seasons.
“I expect it to not be an open seat anywhere in The Swamp,” Mullen said. “I expect to see people on their feet. Great challenge. It should be fun for our student body. It’s a great challenge out there.
“If you look, in college football, student bodies set the tempo and really set the atmosphere for everybody else out there.”
The students have already gotten involved in Saturday’s game, with student government calling for a blue-out game, where fans are encouraged to wear blue.
“You look at the student government already getting in with wearing blue and all of that,” Mullen said. “They come in and they’re on their feet, jumping up and down, going crazy in the game. I think the rest of the crowd feeds off that. That’s one of the things that I want us to get back to, having the student body really dominating the environment.”
Mullen said he wants The Swamp environment to be like it used to be when he was here before. Saturday would be a good time to start because LSU is ranked No. 5 in the nation and this is one of the biggest UF home games in several years.
Also on Saturday, the Gators will be honoring the 2008 national championship team that Mullen was part of, and quarterback legend Tim Tebow will be present and going into the program’s Ring of Honor.
“I expect it to look like that (2008),” Mullen said.
Mullen remembers what it was like back then. He was reminded of it last Saturday night in Starkville, where Mississippi State fans created a similar environment to what the Gators once had.
The stadium was packed, and it was loud. Extremely loud throughout the entire game, and even before.
Mullen helped create that hostile atmosphere in Starkville during his nine years as the Bulldogs’ head coach.
“I know having gone somewhere else where you had to build it,” he said. “We built it through the student body. Anybody of the Gator Nation that went to last week’s game in Starkville probably saw that. The student section was packed an hour before kickoff.
“You can build it through that way, and the rest of the crowd feeds off of that. That’s one of the things that we really want to work on. That’s one of the things I’ve gotten around campus, trying to get with student groups and let them know how critical they are to the atmosphere that we create. The student body is just critical to that.”
With the No. 5 Tigers in town, this will be the biggest home game the Gators have had since they beat No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 in 2015.
The Swamp atmosphere has been raucous in the early games this season, but there were plenty of empty seats in all three games, including the SEC opener against Kentucky.
Mullen is challenging the fans to fill all those seats Saturday.
“We’re celebrating the 2008 national championship team, which is a pretty special day,” he said. “Having a lot of great players and former players come back. I know it will be nice after a couple weeks to get back home, let someone else deal with the crowd noise.
“I know our student government’s already got it out there, that we’re encouraging everybody to wear blue. What we need to do is sell out The Swamp, pack it early, get loud and give us that home-field advantage.”