Notebook: Mullen admits he went conservative with play calls

LSU linebacker Ray Thornton tackles Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks during Saturday's game at Florida Field. The Gators beat the Tigers 27-19. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

After Feleipe Franks threw an interception in the end zone early in the third quarter last Saturday in the win over LSU, the Florida offense did almost nothing for the rest of the quarter.

UF coach Dan Mullen admitted Monday that he became too conservative in his play calling, mostly due to poor field position, he said.

“I got conservative,” he said. “The next three possessions we seemed to be back to the wall and I got conservative, and that’s a real bad combination for the offense. For the offense, you’re already backed way up near your own goal-line, and now I got conservative with my play calling.

“We go three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out and now you sit there and yell, ‘Boy, that’s terrible.’ I thought it was a lack of consistency, too, but it’s a lack of consistency on my part as much as our execution of the guys on the field.

“We’re always striving. I want to score every time we have the ball and I don’t want us to give up a yard. As you draw it up, that’s probably real unrealistic, though.”

More on Feleipe’s pick

Speaking of the momentum-killing interception, Mullen said Franks was trying to throw the ball away out of the back of the end zone, but could not get enough on the throw because he was getting hit by an LSU rusher.

“It was bad protection to start with,” Mullen said. “The second he put his foot in the ground, he’s got somebody hitting him right in the chest. So it starts with bad protection, then it goes to I guess bad decision-making in what he was trying to accomplish once he realized he was about to get hit and couldn’t put anything on the throw.

“If you look at the throw, Moral (Stephens) breaks open. He’s about to get hit, and instead of trying to rifle it into Moral as Moral was open right there in front of the DB, he tried to throw it away and couldn’t get enough on it because he was going backwards on his back.”

Mullen said Franks should have taken the sack.

“Best in that situation is just hold onto the ball,” he said. “We’ll just play the next play. We’ll find a way. We’re in the red zone. You at least want to definitely get points.”

Mullen said it was a good teaching moment.

“Absolutely, yeah,” he said. “Every play of the game right now for a lot of our guys experience-wise is a teaching moment.”

Stiner strikes again

For the second week in a row, sophomore safety Donovan Stiner produced the game-ending defensive play for the Gators.

Against Mississippi State, it was his big fourth-down sack of quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. In the win over LSU, it was his fourth-down interception in the closing seconds.

He was asked which is his favorite.

“I can’t really decide,” he said. “It’s too hard.”

Mullen said he would have preferred that Stiner bat the ball down rather than catch it in that situation.

“I was just focused on not letting the receiver get it,” Stiner said. “Once I knew I could catch it, I just caught it and went down. I knew it was fourth down, so I knew we could just kneel the ball and it would be over.”



  1. Can someone let Coach Mullen know that Feleipe Franks has a very distinct “tell” when it comes to plays when we are running the ball? Most of the time (when in the shotgun or pistol), about 2-3 seconds before they snap the ball, he will turn and look at the running back. I pointed it out to my daughter after she asked me how I always knew they were gonna run the ball. Sometimes it was a situational guess, but many times, it was Feleipe giving it away and not realizing he was. Go Gators….great win against LSU!

  2. Ricky, I agree. I admit I jumped all over the thought of frost and kelly. Thought Dan was still great, but their offenses had such great stats. DAN Mullen is 100% the best hire in the offseason. Maybe best coach…maybe not, but the best coach for THIS PROGRAM! From the fan base, to the game plans, the staff and development….please ensure Dan Mullen retires here! I’m not talking Bob stoops retiring either, im talking paterno years of coaching ( with more wins and no shower stuff)! GO Gators!!

  3. conservative play calling gets an unfair bad rap imo, really its smart playcalling, in the face of downside risk/pressure not to take chances (similar concept on the interception), perhaps a tendency breaker occasionally, but let me stop while I am ahead. if cdm calls it, that’s more than good enough for me, same as the ole ball coach. high upside low risk situations, gambling makes more sense

    • Franks was on fire at that point and full of confidence after dropping a 49 yard dime on the previous play. Hard to find fault in letting him throw it again. If that play connects, Franks is through the roof and LSU is completely deflated. It was an unfortunate result that’s very easy to criticize after the fact. The biggest positive of all is the fact that Franks didn’t allow that int to affect him mentally and he still led them on a 75 yard TD drive to win the game.

    • I was thinking the same thing, and NO he can throw it out of bounds as long as he throws it past the line of scrimmage, so out the side of the endzone.
      So refreshing to hear a coach tell it like it is rather than give canned statements. He didnt have to admit that. I can understand getting a little gun shy when your QB just threw the ball straight to the opposite player.

      • Sorry, but that’s just not true. If you’re between the tackles there must be a receiver in the area. If there was a receiver over by the side of the endzone, then he can sail it over his head. If he would have done that in this case though, it would have been a penalty.

  4. On the interception, Scarlett broke wide open to Franks’ right and could have walked into the end zone if Franks had just checked the ball down to Scarlett (and if Scarlett did not drop the ball). I think he did check it down once in the game and hit Perine for a nice gain while he was being pressured. And he had time to get it to Scarlett. Franks simply has to see the field better and make quicker decisions in that situation. The proper throw would have been a check down to Scarlett, not a pass down the middle under pressure on first down. Or simply take the sack as Mullen said and either get a TD later or kick a FG if not. You have to get points there and keep the BIG MO in your favor. But a win is a win. And not, Franks does not always look at the RB on running plays. But he does look at a RB when he is checking to another play to verify understanding before a snap or to make sure the RB knows his blocking assignment after Franks reads the defense. It does not signal a running play, although a run may follow sometimes.

  5. I thought that at the time – it was a hard hit as he threw.

    Overall, Franks had a great game. Beautiful passes, deep down the field. Critical runs when it counted. He game up his body on numerous runs and passes for critical yards. His best game as a Gator.

    No one has to apologize for the play calling. It’s been great. It shows an understanding of what the team can effectively do. There’s an ebb and flow to a game that an experienced play caller has to respond.

    • They got a pick to end the game because of it.. I trust this staff with every decision made now.. I’m a believer and have bought in as a fan 100% Mullen is a genius! Even purchased some stock in Frank’s, and I’m not talking about the weiners either!

  6. I think somebody has got the wrong play. Go back to the replay of the interception and you will see that Stephens was NOT open, but covered by 2 LSU defenders with a third rotating toward the receiver.

  7. Admitting? That was a mere factoid and perhaps that’s how we won the game. Your headlines makes it sound like he is admitting to wrong doings. IMO, you just didn’t get it…correct statement wrong reflection. Go Gators!

  8. I understand the “take a knee instead on the pick 6 interception” and “bat the ball down on 4th down” ideas, but sometimes you have to make the plays when they are there to be made. Yes, the pick 6 gave LSU a chance, but it was a slim chance because the Gators were ahead by 8 and the defense was playing mostly well. If Mullen had elected to kick the extra point on the previous touchdown instead of going for 2, then the “pick 6” would have but them ahead by 9 and game over – how come no one is second guessing that call?