No. 25 Gators face SEC test tonight vs. Wildcats

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Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson (12) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a touchdown Saturday against Charleston Southern at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Since way back in the spring, Florida coach Dan Mullen has been stressing to his players the importance of forgetting the previous play, whether it was good or bad, and focusing on the next.

The Gators apparently have been listening to their coach, because they applied that approach in the opener last Saturday.

After giving up a 70-yard run late in the first half, the Gators got a stop and then blocked a 22-yard field goal attempt.

In the second half, after surrendering a touchdown, the Gators blocked the PAT.

Forget and move on. It’s the way to go.

Well, the same goes for games. Forget the last one and focus on the next one.

That’s where the Gators find themselves now.

They had a big celebratory night in The Swamp in Mullen’s debut last Saturday night with a 53-6 victory over Charleston Southern that has left everyone with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

But they need to get over that feeling — because the next game is here.

And the real season is here — Kentucky and the start of SEC play.

Thinking back on how great things went a week ago likely would not be a good thing, so the Gators spent the early part of their week walking (no, maybe sprinting) away from that game.

At least that’s what Mullen is counting on. That, and their undivided attention on Kentucky.

“They understand that,” Mullen said. “They know who we’re playing. They know it’s a conference game. We’ll talk about it being an SEC game and that makes it different. A lot of it is going to be we’ve got to concentrate on ourselves.

“I do like our guys having confidence in what we did (last week). We also have to understand that we have to become a lot better. Not just because Kentucky is a lot better than Charleston Southern. We have to be a lot better if we want to be a good football team.”

Perhaps the most promising aspect of last week’s win was the performance of redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks and the offense.

Franks looked like a different player from a year ago — confident, consistent, poised and productive. In only one half of work, he threw for 219 yards and five touchdowns. This is the same guy who threw only nine touchdowns all of last season.

So, everyone’s feeling good about Franks and the offense after last week’s showing. But Franks and the Gators will be facing an entirely different test tonight.

Kentucky has SEC athletes and an SEC defense, one that is fast and physical and will attack the Florida offense.

In last week’s win over Central Michigan, the UK defense gave up only 11 first downs, 255 total yards and held CMU to six-of-18 on third down.

Obviously, the Gators, who found out a little bit about themselves in the opener, will learn a whole lot more tonight.

Mullen isn’t worried about his quarterback’s focus. It’s on Kentucky.

“He’s done a good job this week of putting that last game behind him,” Mullen said. “We’re all into a new game plan, new execution. Everything he did last week, none of it has any effect on what’s going to happen in this game.”

The same goes for the Gators overall.

The last game doesn’t matter. Tonight’s game means everything because it’s the next game, and it’s an SEC game.

It’s a message that seems to have reached the players.

“Coach Mullen does a good job about talking to us about how you never want to get too high, you never want to get too low,” Franks said. “Whether we have a big win or a big loss, you don’t want to get too low or too high. The game is all about just keeping your head on a level platform and just going out there and playing the next play, playing the next week and just not worrying about what just happened.

“So, we’ve got to close that chapter of Charleston Southern and move on to Kentucky. We’re not worried about that first game anymore. We got the win and we’re just worried about this week.”

The Gators did watch tape of last week’s win. That probably helped them get focused on their preparation this week because it was less than a perfect performance.

The offensive line didn’t dominate like it was supposed to. There were some drops by the tight ends. Not all of Franks’ reads were correct. There were some tackling issues. And then there was that 70-yard run.

“There’s a lot more room to grow, lot of work to do, not just at my position,” Franks said. “As a team, we’ve got so much more room to grow. We’re just tapping into our potential, just scratching the surface.”

Mullen has said that a team’s biggest improvement usually comes between the first game and the second. The Gators are hoping that happens, because the real season begins tonight.

“Going into SEC play, that’s when it really counts,” Franks said. “We have to dial in and get everything corrected. That’s what (Mullen) means by it should be your biggest jump (between your first and second game). You get all that on film and you kind of want to make a really big jump going into SEC play and your bigger games.”

11 COMMENTS

  1. I would say, as GatorGI was oft fond of saying, “Just Do It”, but as good as that phrase was, it seems to have lost a lot of it’s meaning recently. How about, with a little nod to them Cajuns — not meaning LSU — “JUST GO AHEAD AND DID IT”?!

    I think the Gators recognize that this is going to be an SEC team tonight, a roster full of SEC caliber players, and that it won’t be a cake walk. Or will it? Who has the better players? Who has the most pressure on them to break the so called streak? Who is likely to make the most errors? Who has the motivation?

    We may see the Gators buckle a little at first as they adjust, but I think they grow by leaps and bounds tonight. I’m revising my prediction to Florida 41 – Kentucky 14.

    • Yea, the real tragedy in all the Nike B.S. (regardless of your politics) is that ”some kids today” actually believe Colin Kaepernick is a true hero. But a true, real life HERO was JESSIE OWENS, and him taking over the (REAL) NAZI’S OLYMPICS, and getting that ”gold bling.” But I will go with ”Chomp-on” from now on, Gator-6.

      • Wow…..what a statement, GI, and absolutely correct altho long, long forgotten. In 1984, after being in the 3rd Infantry Division for a year and a half and averaging 16 hours a day, I finally got a chance to take leave. There was no doubt in my mind where I wanted to go — Berlin– and that was one of the reasons why. I stood there in that Olympic stadium and I swear, I could feel the ghost of Jessie Owens right there. I relived all those old news reels over and over until it was time to go…..thanks for bringing that all back! You are a great American to remember.

      • +1 on Jesse Owens—perhaps my all-time favorite sports hero. The difference is that his performance struck a blow against Nazism abroad and served the nation’s will at that time. Kapernick’s protest is a bit more inconvenient.

        Kapernick’s story isn’t finished, but a better comparison is Muhammad Ali, who also sacrificed prime years of his professional career because he refused to compromise his beliefs. The “unpatriotic” “traitor” (we’ll set aside what all else he was called at that time) eventually became more beloved for who he was and what he did outside of the ring than for his greatness inside it.

        Ali had wayyyyyy more charisma, though!

        GO GATORS!

  2. Here they come, the little blue nation and their precious little kitties, ”here kitty, kitty…”
    Show no mercy, Gators! Eat every last part of the little, blue feline! Hair balls? What hair balls?
    Gators have battery acid in their guts. Go Gators! Chomp-on!

  3. Kentucky will no doubt be better in their second game as well, but as I have said to doubters all week, never mind who we played last week. Franks and the offense in general looked so much better in the first half than nearly any time last year. Franks had time to throw and if Kentucky stacks the box, we will throw over their heads for big plays. Our defense looks pretty good and it is tough for any team to win on the road in the SEC. The Swamp will be rocking and my son and I will leave the stadium hoarse again as usual. Florida 38 Kentucky 13. Go Gators!