Gators unfazed by outside noise, Mullen factor vs. Bulldogs

Florida coach Dan Mullen talks with defensive back Trey Dean III in the second half Saturday in the game against Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

The storylines surrounding Saturday have run consistently in the 10 months since Dan Mullen left Mississippi State for Florida, and the arrival of the match-up means they’re in full gear.

But on the practice field, Florida’s focus has been just that: staying focused, avoiding the outside noise and any resulting distractions. That’s for Mullen to handle — the players can only control the X’s and O’s and the 60 minutes of football Saturday.

It’s a message the Gators have heard repeatedly in practice following the team’s 47-21 win at Tennessee: focus on playing Florida football rather than emotions surrounding Mullen’s return.

“Coming into this game, it’s not about (Mullen),” wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland said. “He tells us to just play physical and be consistent, and just come out there and work hard, play hard, play physical and give relentless effort.”

Regardless of the effect it has on UF’s game plan, it’ll be hard to ignore the Mississippi State fans, who will likely jeer the return of the head coach who built the program into a respectable SEC one over nearly a decade. Mullen is more than just familiar with the passion the fans have for MSU, saying he understands if mixed emotions are displayed throughout the evening from the Bulldogs faithful, although most will reckon with his lasting legacy in Starkville sooner rather than later.

“I think there will be a lot of passion on Saturday night with people there,” Mullen said. “I think for the most part they were appreciative in what we were able to accomplish in the nine years that we were there. I don’t know if that will show on Saturday night, but I think they were most appreciative with what I was able to accomplish in nine years there.”

The last time Mullen faced a former program, it was in 2009 in his first season as MSU’s head coach. After taking the Bulldogs coaching gig following his prolific run as UF’s offensive coordinator, Mullen and Mississippi State battled Florida at Davis Wade Stadium.

As Mullen recalled Monday, his players responded then, too. Although on Saturday, Mullen will look to accomplish with the Gators what he couldn’t in 2009: beat his former program.

“It was a big game because you’re trying to build a program. I remember the game. It was a pretty raucous environment,” Mullen said. “John Banks had two pick-sixes of Timmy Tebow that were huge. It was a battle right down to the end.”

Ultimately, Florida’s players have witnessed more coaching staff turnover in recent history than Mississippi State has, and the discussion rarely comes up. Prior to last week’s win over the Volunteers, the Gators didn’t discuss the return of two assistant coaches to a program which they had formerly coached. So in the eyes of the players, the week has been business as usual, at least in Gainesville.

“I mean, it’ll be cool to get that win. We’re obviously always going to want to play hard and win every single game. I don’t think this one is going to be any different as far as we’re concerned. Last week we were going back to Knoxville where Coach Warren and Coach Scott came from last year,” tight end R.J. Raymond said. “I think as far as the players are concerned I don’t think it’s going to be anything different. We’re going go out there and play our hardest to get a win like we do every single week.”


  1. My beautiful wife is a UF grad but started her college career with a year at Mississippi State. She’s a Gator fan for sure but I will have to hide her damn cowbell anyway!! MSU has historically been a tough opponent for the Gators and this week will most likely be so again, but I believe the Gators will prevail.

  2. I hope that the players will ignore the fans, apparently they ignored those large number of UT fans, so this should be fine. Now I think that their cow bells should be banned, we would not be allowed to have say electronic Gator growling devices they should not be allowed illegal noise makers either.

    • Vulcan MSU gets their cow bells, Boise gets Blue field. Read about some clause they and few others got when the rules came in banning any new things. Part of the game I guess. Annoying yes, but when we take the stretch out of their shorts and the stadium gets quiet always been a good feeling. Like when the Vollies left in droves. UGA does that too when they lose. Some Gators do but not as many. Admittedly I don’t go to the MSU game and have to listen to it. GO GATORS!

      • Exactly right, the SEC banned all artificial noise makers, but in 2014 they amended their noise maker policy to allow them to be used up until the center gets over the ball until the whistle blows. Technically the Gators could use them if they wanted to. MSU has been fined a few times since this policy took affect, but seem to be abiding by the rules lately. I’d venture to say they’ll probably get a fine after this game. Their stadium only seats 61,000 fans, so they need all the help they can get with noise.

  3. It must be a nit-pickin’ night, Graham. Thanks for an interesting article. I recall way back in 1971 when the SEC originally banned all such noisemakers. That’s because we Florida students used orange and blue kazoos to disrupt an early season opponent. The campaign was named “Kazoo FSU!” The Noles came in unbeaten and ranked about fourth. Our Gators were winless. After our returner fumbled and lost the opening kick-off on about our 4-yard line, FSU’s lumbering QB Bill Cappleman set his team for a snap. Thousands of us rose to blow our kazoos. FSU got stuffed twice, then fumbled the ball back to us on third down. The Noles center couldn’t hear Cappleman’s signals in our studen-filled north and NE end of old Florida Field. Cornerback Harvin Clark shut down the Noles’ star receiver, a guy long forgotten, and Robert Harrell led the charge up front in utterly dominating the FSU offense. John Reaves and Carlos Alvarez along with Tommy Durrabce got it done on offense and we won the huge upset.

    Almost immediately the other SEC leaders had an emergency vote to ban noisemakers. Mississippi State hadn’t used cowbells long, got an exemption because it was part of their ag school “culture”.

    It remains one of that 1971 team’s magnificent efforts. Go Gators!

  4. Graham, you guys ought to do a little series on some of the otherwise forgotten games of Florida football. Robert Harrell is easy to find and probably reads this site’s article. He or Carlos could tell stories that would tie our Gator past to the present. We own a rich culture that fed the passion until Steve Spurrier came home and that passion exploded into what our Gator Nation is today.