Coach Dan Mullen didn’t need to admit Florida got dominated on both sides of the line. It was likely apparent to even a casual observer.
UF’s 27-16 defeat at the hands of Kentucky reeked of a team overmatched and underprepared, but Mullen stressed it came down to a pillar of the game: physicality.
The offensive line struggled to get push against Kentucky’s front seven, resulting in a run game that looked vastly different from Florida’s 47-point win in the season opener.
The Gators mustered just 128 rushing yards on 28 attempts Saturday as opposed to the Wildcats’ 303 yards on the ground, and UK would need only 13 more carries to do it, too.
Mullen didn’t mince words after the game when addressing Florida’s weaknesses in the early going.
Unable to go back to the drawing board, Mullen said the Gators will continue harping on practicing with a similar effort level, with the intention of undergoing gradual improvement.
“I think our physicality is going to be something this team – and we’ve talked about it constantly – they have to continue to work on. And it starts in practice,” Mullen said. “I think guys are kind of used to – like practices are a lot more like a walk-through, and they’re not. That shows you. You don’t end up being a really good physical team when you do that.”
Regardless if that’s a dig at former coach Jim McElwain and his regime or not, the 10 months Mullen has been Florida’s coach have yet to result in a transformation inside the program, despite the noticeable physical changes the team has undergone.
Saturday’s contest showed that Florida’s emphasis on physical improvement in the offseason has yet to translate to physicality on the field.
Senior offensive lineman Martez Ivey, a former five-star prospect who has received criticism for his play in Florida’s first two contests, concurred with Mullen that success on the field starts at practice.
“Have a better week of practice. That’s where it starts at, you know. Practice how you play,” Ivey said. “I know what it takes to win. I just feel as a unit, as a team, we need to take the right steps to compete the way we should have. We’re going to move on to next week, move forward. And we’re gonna define who we are as a team on Monday. You know, in practice, how hard we go.”
With a Colorado State program fresh off of a win against Arkansas — an SEC program that, like Florida, is under new management following a four-win season — the Gators don’t have much time if they hope to further erase the bad habits instituted by the previous program.
“You’ve got to thud. You’ve got to wrap up. You’ve got to drive back. Scout teams have got to perform better and be a little bit more physical. It’s a mind-set of how you practice and how you treat every day,” Mullen said. “We don’t practice very long. We’re not on the field for like three hours. We’re up and down, pretty up-tempo. During that time, we’ve got to make sure we’re practicing at an intensity level that’s going to allow us to perform on Saturday.”