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.”