Mullen, Gators counting on fan support at The Swamp vs. LSU

43
2482
Florida coach Dan Mullen went around the entire stadium greeting fans after season opening game against Charleston Southern at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

With Florida coming home after winning back-to-back SEC road games in hostile environments, coach Dan Mullen is calling out Gator fans to step up their game.

He’s challenging them to fill The Swamp on Saturday for the LSU game and create the kind of atmosphere the Gators once had when he was the offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and UF was playing for championships.

Mullen said it starts with the students, who have had low turnouts for games in recent seasons.

“I expect it to not be an open seat anywhere in The Swamp,” Mullen said. “I expect to see people on their feet. Great challenge. It should be fun for our student body. It’s a great challenge out there.

“If you look, in college football, student bodies set the tempo and really set the atmosphere for everybody else out there.”

The students have already gotten involved in Saturday’s game, with student government calling for a blue-out game, where fans are encouraged to wear blue.

“You look at the student government already getting in with wearing blue and all of that,” Mullen said. “They come in and they’re on their feet, jumping up and down, going crazy in the game. I think the rest of the crowd feeds off that. That’s one of the things that I want us to get back to, having the student body really dominating the environment.”

Mullen said he wants The Swamp environment to be like it used to be when he was here before. Saturday would be a good time to start because LSU is ranked No. 5 in the nation and this is one of the biggest UF home games in several years.

Also on Saturday, the Gators will be honoring the 2008 national championship team that Mullen was part of, and quarterback legend Tim Tebow will be present and going into the program’s Ring of Honor.

“I expect it to look like that (2008),” Mullen said.

Mullen remembers what it was like back then. He was reminded of it last Saturday night in Starkville, where Mississippi State fans created a similar environment to what the Gators once had.

The stadium was packed, and it was loud. Extremely loud throughout the entire game, and even before.

Mullen helped create that hostile atmosphere in Starkville during his nine years as the Bulldogs’ head coach.

“I know having gone somewhere else where you had to build it,” he said. “We built it through the student body. Anybody of the Gator Nation that went to last week’s game in Starkville probably saw that. The student section was packed an hour before kickoff.

“You can build it through that way, and the rest of the crowd feeds off of that. That’s one of the things that we really want to work on. That’s one of the things I’ve gotten around campus, trying to get with student groups and let them know how critical they are to the atmosphere that we create. The student body is just critical to that.”

With the No. 5 Tigers in town, this will be the biggest home game the Gators have had since they beat No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 in 2015.

The Swamp atmosphere has been raucous in the early games this season, but there were plenty of empty seats in all three games, including the SEC opener against Kentucky.

Mullen is challenging the fans to fill all those seats Saturday.

“We’re celebrating the 2008 national championship team, which is a pretty special day,” he said. “Having a lot of great players and former players come back. I know it will be nice after a couple weeks to get back home, let someone else deal with the crowd noise.

“I know our student government’s already got it out there, that we’re encouraging everybody to wear blue. What we need to do is sell out The Swamp, pack it early, get loud and give us that home-field advantage.”

43 COMMENTS

  1. id say game of the decade at the swamp. the ole miss game a couple of years ago would have been, but it didn’t sustain, and the south Carolina game 2012 was good but, south Carolina, even with spurrier is not an elite school

  2. Certainly glad Coach Chest-Pain-Family-Time WON’T be in the Swamp for the 2008 title celebration. He was the key driver of that achievement, but he burned all of his good will with Gator Nation several ways over.

    Cheers to Coach Mullen and these Gritty Gators! Whip the Tiggers, GO GATORS!

    • Yea I am not a real fan of Urban either, but given that you make fun of it, have you ever had chest pain before? Hopefully a widowmaker never visits your front door.

      I’m all in on DM and UF. But they are gonna have to play a perfect game to beat the big cat.

      C

      • It was a panic attack, and a dodge to start his exit. I sympathized with his resignation, but coming back 24 hours later stunk; the crap he pulled the following year confirmed the diagnosis.

        And yeah, they’ll have to play over the top.

        • PFO — I know you don’t like the guy, I’ve got mixed feelings myself about him, but please don’t underestimate the ability of a “panic attack” to mimic a full blown cardiovascular event…….the autonomics involved are terrifying to the patient, and executive cognitive processing remains compromised for some time. You’ve got every right to your opinion and I generally agree with you for the most part; just don’t let attribution default exclusively to personality in this case.

          • Thanks Gator-6. I promise you, I am not dealing on personality in this case, but you’ll have to take my word – or not.
            Cheers.

      • Lets not get it twisted. Yes the Gators will need to play great to win, which is the case for pretty much every game on their schedule, but LSU is going to need to play great as well. They’ve only had one real test on the road this season in a hostile environment against a team with a very similar defense, and snuck by with a 1 pt win. Some might argue Miami was another great road win, but anyone who knows college football knows Miami was struggling in the beginning of the season until they made a QB change. LSU was only up 3 against Louisiana Tech at home with about 8 mins left in the 4th qtr. I don’t think they’re as dominant of a team as everyone is making them out to be.

        • They are a good team, Joe, and Ogeron has them believing in themselves and playing to win — no doubt. But, the degrees of separation are not that much from where we are either…..they’ve just been at it a little longer than us. That may give them an edge, but it may work against them too — if they underestimate us, they’re going to be in serious trouble. Knowing a little about how they tend to think about things and Dan Mullen’s ability to come up with a game plan to fit each game……well, I think that’s just what they’ll do even if they’re told not to. Gator win, maybe by the skin of our ass, but a Gator win just the same. I’ll bet Daz’s recent earnings on it!

  3. Compared to a decade or so ago, it is now just sad to get to The Swamp and see so many student seats not being used, and they now rarely show up to support the team before the game starts. They sometimes do show up late and fill some of the seats, but I remember days past when opposing teams hated standing in front of the UF student section. Now their traveling fans eventually start to move down into the UF student section and support their team instead. But when you come to Florida as one of the top 5 percent of all students from Florida, the country, and internationally, I guess college football is not of high interest or a priority. But I will be there, and this time to welcome back and thank Tim Tebow for making 2006 through 2009 so exciting.

  4. It starts with the students, but the rest of the fans are just as bad about not showing up. A bad product on the field, in addition to all the other reasons to stay home and watch the game on TV has caused attendance to decline. I’m not sure it will ever get back to the intense crowds of the 80s & 90s on a consistent basis.

    • I would quibble that it was not so much “a bad product on the field” during the majority of our decline, Sparky, but a progressively more mediocre and uninspiring one compared to our previous years. But you’re right, it was so bad at the end that it stunk like a dead alligator in the middle of the road. What puzzles me the most, aside from generational differences, is that there isn’t more student traffic on our road to recovery, or maybe even salvation, finally.

      Or maybe it really is generational after all?

  5. Let’s see how this plays out, just as we are seeing how the team plays out in this first year of transition. I would definitely prefer students to support the Gators in all kind of weather, through thick and thin — but it doesn’t matter what us old guys want, these are different students than we were. Still, I think that as we re-establish our winning ways on the way back to elite and beyond, they’ll come. It’s a shame that they might miss the best part of that process, however. I can’t help but getting a picture of Dan Mullen saying, “Hey, I’m building it — you gotta come!”.

  6. I expect it to be packed and very load this Saturday. These students expected to be at a school with a football team competing for championships. Not the product that has been on the field for the past 6 years. Gator football is becoming fun again. For the past 6 years it has been hard on the eyes and felt like time that was being thrown away to watch how to not play football. A win Saturday changes the whole perception and direction of the program in just 1/2 a season of Dan Mullin, bringing back optimism and passion into the student body that had been drained by the previous two coaching staffs.

    • They dont need to win, just compete. i believe it will be packed just cause its a top 5 team in town and not a CSU! Winning will change things but we used to not have to be great to fill the stadium. Times have changed and the LIbs are hard after football to destroy it! Alot of mothers now wont even let their boys play!

  7. Opening line is -3 Tiggers on 5 vs. 22 mathcup! Even Vegas says the Gators have more than a fighting chance. Punch ’em in the mouth early Gators and don’t stop until the echo of the last whistle. It’s our SWAMP! Only Gators get out alive!! Everbody that can, get there and show those Cajuns how it’s done!

    • GFL: I think you’ll find an answer here to make a purchase:
      Gator Ticket Office at (352) 375-4683 or visit the Ticket Office on the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or at FloridaGators.com.

  8. Maybe I am showing my age but when I was a student we STOOD the entire game including the early season kick-offs at 1 p.m. and left every game deaf and so hoarse, we couldn’t speak properly for days. We all sounded like Ed Orgeron before anybody knew who he was. By the third quarter, we were jingling our keys at the opponents and singing “na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey, hey,hey, good bye!” Spurrier had just become the coach and everything about the game was fun from the double wave going around the stadium to Albert fighting the opposing mascot. Students miss out on a lot of actual fun getting sucked into the text world. I used to boo the alumni section when we would start a wave only to see it die in the alumni section. Now the alumni like me are the ones keeping it going! I hope they fill their section to the max Saturday. Go Gators!

    • Yeah, those were the days! 🙂 Yeah, I did sound like Ed Orgeron after games LOL.

      I think part of the reason it’s not as loud anymore is because of the rule of not allowing fans to go back in after leaving the stadium. I [understand we don’t want drunk fans, but the policy should be to not allow fans to go back if they’ve been out longer than 15 minutes. How many people can get drunk in a a few minutes? Not saying it can’t happen, but it would be stupid for anyone to try to ingest enough alcohol just to be drunk in such a short period of time.. Let’s have a machine scan you ticket when you leave and scan it again when you go back in. That said, it’s no excuse for the fans that stays throughout the game to get real out!! This is the SWAMP! Come on Gators! Let’s get LOOOOUUUUUD!!!

      • Why would anyone leave anyway and want to come back in? To make a difference that would have to be an awful lot of people and i dont think they exist. When people leave they want to go, is my experience.

  9. Most universities and colleges are struggling to fill stadiums, especially with students. It’s a sign of the times. Many students, even when at the stadium, spend more time looking at their phones than the game. It is more important to them to “document life” than “experience life”. Just a different culture than our generation.

    I hope the Swamp is LOUD this week. LSU looks very good, but not great to me. Their QB is very good but not a great passer and he seems cool and collected and a good game manager. Coach O and his staff are doing a good job with their talent. I expect them to be ready to be physical with the Gators. I expect Coach Mullen to have this team ready and have a great gameplan. Win or lose it should be a great game. I didn’t think that way a few weeks ago. Go Gators!

  10. I think it’s just harder to show up to a game when you don’t think your team has a chance of winning.. I know we all say we are going to beat LSU, but I don’t think deep down we really beleive we are going to. It’s a mindset that needs to change and I think if the Gators do indeed beat LSU this weekend hopefully that mindset will start to change for us Fans. It’s been a long road of dissapointments in the last 9 years so you can’t blame us..

  11. There is only one person responsible for destroying what had been one of the best fan bases in the country, the skeletal failure machine known as Jeremy Foley. When he arrived, we had a great fan base that had supported the team for years in good times and bad. When he left, we had a half empty stadium with tumble weeds blowing up and down the stairs. I heard he used to stand in the skyboxes during games, look over all the empty seats and mumble, “Behold my wonderous works! No one but The Foley could have wrought this destruction!!!!!!!”

  12. Gator Mike-really?!?! You’re giving them WAAAAAY too much credit. I think UF CAN and WILL win this weekend!! Lswho is not as good as everyone thinks they are. I live here and trust me they’re totally overlooking this game and have their eyes on Georgia next weekend. So let them overlook and bypass this one. That way the Gators can kick them all over the Swamp! They all act like last year was a big beatdown or something but it was a botched extra point that got them the W. Lets all go out and support the team. I’m certain they will play salty, fast and ferocious just as they did last weekend. I think they win by 10 points or more. GO GATORS!!

  13. I hope the students put down their calculators and get their homework done Friday night or Sat morning. There are a lot of reasons students have not been showing for games. Y’all have touched on most of them. I think it’s time for the university to start thinking about reducing the size of the stadium and having seat backs for every seat. 75-80,000 people are still a lot . It really needs to be renovated. The times they are a changin. Despite saying that, I think a lot of kids would still show , even if we played in a barn, if we were playing for championships again, obviously. But, it shouldn’t take an SEC or NC to fill the stadium. The experience alone is a unique blast.