The Back Nine: Mullen has it going on at Florida

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Florida coach Dan Mullen watches from the sidelines during the first half Saturday against Missouri in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Back Nine comes at you after a long trip that went remarkably smooth (for me; they lost Robbie’s bag) including a new SEC record for pregame hotel-to-parking-spot of 16 minutes. No medals required.

  1. One of the biggest first steps a football program can make is to find a way to win on the road. And sometimes, that’s why it makes sense to hire an established head coach who knows how to do it. Now that Florida has wrapped up its true road schedule for another football season, it seems like a good time to point out that the head coach of the Gators is now 7-1 in true road games (10-2 at home, 2-2 neutral). If you are looking for a trend, it really is about the offense. Florida has averaged 32 points a game on the road. Winning on the road isn’t easy for anybody, but it continues to be Mullen’s forte. The only true road loss was to a team that is ranked No. 1 in the nation. 
  2. Mullen is also on the verge of possibly (did I hedge that enough?) winning at least 10 games for the second year in a row. The only two coaches who have done that at UF are the obvious choices. Steve Spurrier did it for six straight years from 1993-to-1998 and again in 2000 and 2001. Urban Meyer did it in 2008 and ’09. And that’s it. This concludes this edition of “Open Week Reflections.” Anyway, I thought I’d point these things out because there was a touch of negativity in the fan base after a win — a win, mind you — over a team that embarrassed you the last two years. The game was plodding. It wasn’t overly entertaining. But you win road games any way you can. After Florida’s touchdown on the replay reversal made it 20-6, I quit writing down play-by-play. Unless Florida made some blunders, Missouri wasn’t scoring two touchdowns. That’s how well Florida played on defense and against a team that had scored at least 34 points in every home game this season.
  3. Well, LSU vs. Georgia will be some SEC title game. LSU looks unstoppable now, right up to and through the national title game. I saw an interesting Tweet this week about how the Bulldogs could play four straight games in Atlanta — Georgia Tech, SEC, College Playoff (and lose) and the Kickoff Classic (against Virginia). We get more rankings tonight and see how the committee feels about a Tua Tagovailoa-less Alabama team. The Tide is going to need to pound Auburn next week with Mac Jones at quarterback to have hope.
  4. And for those criticizing Nick Saban for having Tua in the game, it was the second quarter. Have you never been to a college football game and see it flip so fast you almost missed it? I repeat, it was the second quarter and you were playing a team in their stadium. Yes, that was a costly injury for the young man, but he was playing the game he loves. Last week, he was a hobbled warrior who showed his courage. This week, he shouldn’t have been playing. I get confused.  
  5. The news that Scott Frost received a contract extension had some buzz in the Missouri press box (actually, there are two press boxes, one for home media and one for visiting media. I wonder what they get for lunch over there?) Nebraska has fired its last four coaches and all four coaches had at least a .500 record and a total winning percentage of .583. Now they extend a coach who is 8-14 and was everybody’s summer crush. Here’s the thing: every college football program is different. I’m a big believer that schools should be more patient with their coaches, but sometimes it gets too toxic to handle, especially behind the scenes. If they believe Frost has all the attributes to be a good head coach and he doesn’t want to be anywhere else, give him the necessary security to not feel the pressure. I don’t know if Nebraska football can be great again. But I know that it can’t — and this applies to almost everybody — if it keeps hopping from one coaching bandwagon to another.
  6. It was a less than ideal weekend for the Gators other than the football win. Soccer had its season end with a one-and-done, volleyball lost a five-setter and first place in the SEC and basketball lost at UConn. The question I get the most these days is, “What’s wrong with the basketball team?” And the truth is that we know so little about these guys, because we haven’t seen them but a handful of games together. I think they just need some confidence, especially Noah Locke (22.7 percent from three) and Tre Mann (16.7%).
  7. Last week was a rough one and if I seemed more grumpy than usual or distant, I apologize. On Friday while I was on the road, we had to let our sweet golden retriever Daisy go after her long bout with cancer. She was so low maintenance that she rarely even barked. She wasn’t much of a retriever, but she sure was golden. 
  8. The Tweet of the Week comes from Field Yates of ESPN (stay with it until the end) — “Active number of consecutive winning seasons (2019 included) 0: ARI, ATL, CAR, BUF, CIN, CLE, DEN, DET, GB, JAX, MIA, NYG, NYJ, OAK, TB, WAS 

1: CHI, HOU, IND, SF

 2: BAL, LAC, LAR, MIN, NO, PHI 

3: DAL, TEN 

4:

 5: PIT 

6: KC

 7: SEA 

8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 

19: NE”

Pretty dynastic.

  1. I either need a new phone or someone riding on every plane in the next seat to show me what I’m doing wrong because I thought I downloaded a movie and could never find it. Is there anything worse than an old man trying to figure out technology? At least the tunes were good:

* “Wars” by Of Monsters and Men.

* “All Mirrors” by Angel Olsen.

* “Comeback Kid” by Sleigh Bells.

* “Good Woman” by Cat Power.

* And for an oldie, because I need something bright and cheery and silly today, “Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver.

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

10 COMMENTS

  1. “Nobody suffers a winner like Gator football fans.” Great line Pat!

    There actually were some “Gator fans” posting on this site, seriously suggesting CDM bench Kyle Trask and start Emory Jones vs. FSU because the Gator offense was slow to start, on the road, in a place they haven’t won at in 4 years, in the cold, at 11 AM, against the then #4 pass defense IN THE NATION, with nearly ZERO running game!

    The Gators should have led that game by 28 and had Trask in there, running the 2-minute drill to try and run up the score, right before half time, right? Oh wait, THAT did happen somewhere else on Saturday. How did THAT ONE turn out???

    SHEEEESH!!!

  2. About basketball: As fans, we never really know what is going on. It looks like the Gators run a very static offense and given the fact that everyone believes that Mike White is a good coach we have to wonder why they just stand around playing 1 on 1 basketball. Is it that his guys have too little experience to work a motion offense, that they mess up in practice whenever they try to move without the ball, that they try but can’t run a give and go or a back-door play? We will never know. All we know is what we see on the floor and so far all we have seen is no movement and 1on 1 basketball. Even with all of the talent that they have and the first good center in years, that ain’t going to win against good teams. They shouldn’t be ranked and I suspect in a day or so or at most a week they won’t be.

    • It seems to me that the Gators start most halves moving well, driving the ball, and getting decent shots, only to stagnate about 5-7 minutes in. I’m not sure why this is happening. Maybe it’s defensive adjustments by the opponents, maybe it’s CMW making substitutions that disrupt the flow, or maybe it’s the players being satisfied with a good start and then getting complacent. Either way, they need to find some better chemistry, figure out the most effective lineups, and get some shots to fall. The team is young and it’s still early, so it’s not time to panic. On the other hand, the non-conference schedule is pretty tough, and the SEC schedule will be here before we know it, so some urgency is warranted.

  3. Sorry to hear about Daisy Pat.

    Saban shouldn’t be viewed as a criminal as much as dumb for leaving Tua in up 35-7. The fact that Miss St only scored zero more points after Tua left kind of confirms the theory that Tua shouldn’t have been in the game. When Tua was in the week before, they were down by 20 vs the #1 team in the country going into the half as opposed to up by 28 vs a team that lost its soul in early October.

    The basketball team seems to be spreading the floor better than the FSU game, they just turn the ball over and can’t shoot to save their lives. Especially from three. Locke and Mann’s struggles are really unbelievable. I didn’t expect Lewis and Nembardt to be sharp-shooters, but they look better than the two I did expect to be sharp-shooters. Still early but obviously a bit concerning as I don’t think UConn is really that good this year.

  4. Regarding #11, I hesitate to mention (but not enough not to) that the 2016 team, coached by you-know-who, would’ve certainly won 10 games for the second straight season if they hadn’t had a cupcake game cancelled by Hurricane Matthew(?).

    Regarding #13, I heard Chuck Oliver saying you don’t pull starters from games in the second quarter, because they’ll have no reason to pay attention at half-time, and that would set a bad example for the other players. That’s why coaches generally wait until after the first possession of the 3rd quarter to pull starters. Makes sense. On the other hand, Oliver said the real question would be why did Tua play at all? Interesting.

    Pat, I lost the best dog I ever had, a retriever mix named Kane, to cancer, as well. My condolences.