Gators welcome Mullen Era with solid showing

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Florida wide receiver Trevon Grimes scores on a 34-yard pass play from quarterback Feleipe Franks on the game's first possession Saturday against Charleston Southern at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Lauren Bacho/Staff photographer]

Florida faithful today probably should be saying over and over, “It’s only Charleston Southern, it’s only Charleston Southern, it’s only Charleston Southern.”

And yet they should not be required to do that — or even think it — after what they’ve been put through for the last eight years.

This is a fan base that has been starving for offense — for first downs and big plays and points and really good quarterback play.

The Gators served up all of that in heavy doses Saturday night in The Swamp in Dan Mullen’s much-anticipated head coaching debut in Gainesville.

Florida, which averaged only 22.1 points a game last season, scored 38 points in the first half alone on the strength of five — count ’em, five — touchdown passes by Feleipe Franks and the Gators rolled to a crowd-pleasing 53-6 win before 81,164.

“It was a great win,” Mullen said. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ll get back to it on Monday and get ready for SEC play this week.

“You want to see huge improvement from week one to two. Let’s make some huge strides during preparation in everything we do.”

 Yes, the lopsided win was against outmanned Charleston Southern and the big numbers are a little bit inflated. But that’s not the point.

What this performance is really all about is hope. It provides hope for better things ahead for an offense and a program and a fan base that has had little lately, especially coming off a 4-7 season.

“We can only go up from here,” Franks said. “It felt good. Our players did a good job in the game. To have a good game and get a victory is a good thing. It gets the confidence going for us.”

Franks, the redshirt sophomore who struggled so often and so mightily a year ago, looked like a different player — poised, confident, efficient managing the offense. He had  the best performance of his career (and it’s not even close) and he did it in just one half.

Franks threw five touchdown passes to four different receivers — Trevon Grimes, Van Jefferson (two), Josh Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland — and completed 16 of 24 passes for 219 yards in the first half, then retired for the night.

He is the first UF quarterback to throw for five or more touchdowns in a game since Chris Leak had six against South Carolina in 2004. Franks had only nine touchdown passes all of last season.

“I think (his play) was pretty good,” Mullen said. “There will be some things on film that he missed. He also made some plays.

“His decision making, his communication, was pretty solid. I thought he made good decisions for the most part and made some plays. He had some good decisions in the running game as well, was able to move the team and put the ball in the end zone.”

Franks gave credit to his wide receivers, who were getting open and making plays.

 “Our receivers had a really good night,” he said. “I tried to spread the ball around. We’ve got some big, tall guys in the red zone, quick as well. We’re all just scratching the surface. We have a long way to go to reach our full potential.

“It’s a big progression for me. Each year get better and better.”

 While Franks and the Florida offense were flying up and down the field in the first half, an aggressive defense was stifling, holding the Buccaneers to just one first down, coming on a 70-yard run late in the second quarter. But even that didn’t end well for Charleston Southern, with Tyler Tekac’s 22-yard field goal getting blocked by defensive end Zachary Carter on the final play of the half.

When the game was decided in the first half, the defense overwhelmed the Bucs, who managed only 92 yards of offense, 70 coming on that one run by running back Ronnie Harris.

“That was a good start, just for the team. Great win,” Carter said. “We’re going to start building, and we’re going to build on that and keep moving forward.

“The guys are excited. Coming off of a season like that, we were trying to get these wins under our belt and keep building and building.”

The Gators played mostly with backups for the entire second half, but still managed to outscore the Bucs 15-6.

UF now turns its attention to the SEC opener against Kentucky on Saturday.

“Obviously, your first SEC game is a huge game,” Mullen said. “It really sets the tone for the season. This is going to be a huge game for us. It’s a team I’m familiar with. Mark (Stoops) is really familiar with us, what we do on offense and defense. We’ve played them every year. I’ve played them every year for the last nine years.

“We have to get to work. They have a veteran team, a very talented team and they have really high expectations. We have to be ready to go and crank it up this week.”


Up next

Who: Kentucky (1-0) vs. Florida (1-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

41 COMMENTS

  1. Discipline, conditioning, preparation – all these were evident in our home opener. Yes, our opponent was not up to snuff (why did we schedule them – let’s not do this going forward). However, the game was an opportunity to showcase what the Gator football team has learned. We can compete again – this was sorely lacking last year. I personally witnessed the LSU debacle where we had the opportunity to put the game away in the 4th quarter but squandered it. Why we did not try to kick a field goal (which would have won that game) I have no idea. Regardless, that was then, and this is now. We have a different team – inspired, prepared, disciplined, and it shows. GO GATORS!!!

    • Glen , remember this is a team that has been us in the recent past; plus i prefer a tune-up game to work out all the kinks before a real game anyway. I see too many seasons ruined by scheduling a tough opponent 1st before the team is ready; plus these lesser teams survive from the funds they get from playing a greater opponent which I think is needed in college ball, a distribution of wealth, one might say.

  2. That was just what Florida needed, a ‘W’ in a convincing fashion, again! You gotta’ start somewhere, and a ”directional school” was ”quite tasty” for our Gators. But the ”Tame Cats” of Kentucky will be dipping their paws in ”The Swamp’s” water soon. So it’s time to represent Florida, S.E.C. East style!
    Go Gators! Just do it (all year baby!).

  3. It’s been a long time since they’ve thoroughly beaten even a bad team. When’s the last time anyone has seen the backups enter the game early in the 3rd qtr let alone 4 QBs taking snaps in the game without an injury? When’s the last time we’ve seen a 38-0 halftime lead? I don’t care if it was against Charleston Southern, we’ve played a lot of Charleston southern’s over the last 8 years and have watched every one of them hang around for longer than they should, and even lost to one of them. This is clearly a different team and if you can’t see it then you’re blind. We finally have a season to look forward to and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

  4. I see a major issue for this Florida team. The Gators are clearly going to be in a lot of trouble down the road unless the 4th and 5th string players, along with the walk on players, do not improve; and I mean measurably improve very quickly.

    • I think Jordan Scarlett will get it cranked up. I think he just needed to get into a groove and it just didn’t happen. But I feel confident he’ll be a workhorse. At any rate, of the six backs I believe we’ll have a very strong running game……IF…… the OL comes around. After last night, that is the biggest question mark to me.

  5. This Florida team is going to be in a lot of “given up all hope” trouble unless the 4th and 5th unit teams, along with the walk-on players, get much better very quickly. What a horrible performance by those guys against Charleston Southern. And I have given up all hope that Jones will ever be a good QB in the SEC after his performance last night. He clearly has not talent, just like Franks and Trask.

    • Tampa, are you serious? This is not a 3 team deep, 12-0 team like Bama, but to suggest we are not far from “giving up all hope”….. hopefully you aren’t serious. I saw MUCH improvement last night. Dan had to change EVERYTHING since November. Having depth may be the thing that takes the longest. But we can certainly win 8-9 games with this team.

          • Joe, I have two theories actually, so take your pick. (1) he was abducted by Rick Gillmore and is being forced to say those things under threat of being tickled to death. or (2) he is being held by space aliens and forced to say those things in order to distract and confuse the rest of us while they prepare their final invasion plans.

            I like #2 better.

          • Both are excellent conspiracy theories, 6! I’ve always thought that Tampa could be Rick Gillmore’s alter ego. I wonder what’s happened to him. Rick could be a little prickly, but his comments were always intelligent. As for the alien invasion, if it happens on game day, nobody’s gonna notice!

          • On second thought, I’m going for the space alien theory. I just noticed that in 3 posts in this thread, TampaGator is typed without a space between “Tampa” and “Gator” twice, and with a space once. “Space” is definitely a clue.

          • See, that’s what I’m talking about! As far as Rick goes, I used to think they were the same person — after all, we’ve never seen them in public together (then again, same for Willie Nelson and Yassir Arafat) — but I asked him once on another site if he lived in Tampa and he, I think, said no. Haven’t seen him there since.

            Speaking of Rick, I don’t know what ever happened to him and to tell the truth, kind of miss his commentary. Always thought he had special insights, but yeah….sure was prickly sometimes! At the moment, I’m patiently waiting for Cody Alan to weigh in with his post-game thoughts…..

    • The only thing bad about the backups was them being gashed in the running game by failing to stay in their gaps. The 2 QBs, after trasks TD werent allowed to throw. without any passes an offense is going to bog down! Jones was clearly nervous in his 1st game and he will get over it!

  6. Very good opening game; a cupcake opponent that allowed the Gators to get the game 1 jitters out of the way. I was really glad to see Mullen use the 2nd half to get a lot of backups into the game, including Trask and Jones. This approach is smart and I think it gets the entire team excited to see so many players taking part and getting some playing time. Overall, very good performance. Two areas of some concern remain the O.L especially in run blocking the 1st half. They were ok, just did not look like they were dominating a clearly inferior opponent, especially in the red zone. The second area was a depth issue at either LB or strong safety or both in the 2nd half, as the Bucs QB’s several times dropped back on a long 3rd down and then raced untouched up the middle of the field for long gains. Hope Reese is back next week. Like I said, overall good game and fun to watch, I didn’t have to yell at my TV even once!

  7. I was at the game and I know they ran up the score in the first half but I honestly did not think the O line looked much better than last year. They had a hard time running the ball when Scarlett was in there. They are going to have to get it going if they are going anywhere in the SEC. I guess Kentucky may give them more of a challenge. The guy I was most impressed with on offense was the freshman running back Dameon Pierce. That guy is a beast. He was dominant even though he was running behind the second stringers. He should be starting. As far as the defense goes the first team looked good but again they should have. Charleston Southern is a one dimensional team and not a very good one. They did seem to have a mix up on the one big play they gave up in the first half (70 yard run). They were switching guys in and out on that play and never got set. As a result there was nobody on the left side to set the edge. They should have called a timeout on that play I thought. The second and third team defense did not look good in the second half. So hopefully they don’t get too many injuries or they could be in trouble on that side of the ball. They were missing David Reese and Ce Ce Jefferson though. Once they get back it should be different. I thought Vosean Joseph had a great game. He was all over the field making plays in the first half. From a fan’s standpoint I was a little disappointed it was not a sell out. There were about 9000 seats empty and a lot of fans including four next to me left at half time. That does not happen at Alabama or Ohio State games. IMO if we ever expect to get the top level recruits, the fans really need to show up and stay to the end to support the team. Anybody who left early missed the new deal where they play Tom Petty’s song “I want back down” . I think it is a great new tradition.

  8. Coaching, coaching, and coaching is the big difference. The whole coaching should be happy after last night win. Dan is the Man. Never seen a coach dancing on the sidelines before. Enjoy the win boys and tomorrow start getting ready for Kentucky. This is going to be a big test for you.

  9. Any win is a good win. Let’s remember this was against a Div-II school. Kentucky will show us who the Gators are. KY had good running in their opener. 299 yards but that was Central Mich., not Univ. of Mich. or Florida. I hope Reese is back to clog up the middle. KY will be a test. Hope they make KY throw the ball as Fla. held C. Southern to -3 passing yds, best in the country. Make it 32 in a row. Go Gators.