Trap city: Mullen’s message to team is not to look past Vanderbilt

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Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur and his teammates present the Gators' next challenge. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Now that they’re winning and ranked again, the Florida Gators are about to encounter something they haven’t had to contend with in quite some time.

A trap game.

That’s certainly what’s waiting for the Gators on Saturday in Nashville.

This game with Vanderbilt has all the makings of a trap game.

The Gators have won three big SEC games in a row, two on the road in hostile environments, and are coming off an emotional upset of then-No. 5 LSU in The Swamp, a win that has vaulted UF to No. 14 in the nation.

And now the Gators go to Vanderbilt for an 11 a.m. local time game in a stadium that will be less than full and lacking noise and atmosphere.

And, well, Vanderbilt is Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 0-2 in the SEC and coming off a 41-13 drubbing at the hands of Georgia.

Given the circumstances, the tendency might be for the Gators to relax, have a little bit of a letdown this week. They could be looking ahead to next week’s open date before facing Georgia on Oct. 27.

That’s what makes this a trap game.

And if there’s a letdown this week, there will be a loss on Saturday, Florida coach Dan Mullen said Monday.

“We talked about it this morning,” Mullen said. “I’ve played in games up there. It’s going to be a different atmosphere than what we’ve seen. It doesn’t have to affect our performance on the field and how we play and how we execute and how we practice all week.

“It’s not going to affect that. So, for our guys to have any thought, except for how hard I can go on the next play, would be us taking a step backward as a team. That has to be the focus of everybody within the program.”

Last week, when Nick Saban said No. 1 Alabama’s game at Arkansas was a trap game, everyone just chuckled. Because that wasn’t really a trap game. For one thing, is there even such a thing for a team as talented the Tide? Especially going against a team that has already lost to Colorado State and North Texas.

Florida’s situation is much different. The Gators are winning, but they’re still in the early stages of program development under Mullen. And this is an SEC game against a team the Gators have traditionally struggled with on the road.

Mullen was asked if he believes in trap games.

“I’m a believer in that if you don’t prepare the right way you can’t expect to win the game,” he said. “I can look at our guys this week and say, ‘We’ve played three really tough games in a row and we have a bye week the following week.’

“And the mindset can be, ‘Coach, I can’t wait to catch my breath. I can’t wait to just take one play off at practice.’ That’s where a definition of that could come. More than the opponent you’re facing, it’s yourself and your own attitude of the mental toughness of can we continually improve and get up every day.”

Mullen has already talked to the players this week about mental toughness and staying focused and continuing to strive to get better, something the Gators have done from week to week.

Mullen’s message apparently has gotten through to the players.

“We definitely understand,” junior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “We’re going to prepare, treat it as a national championship game, and come out today ready to practice and continue to get better every day.

“The thing that will be the biggest thing is to not let our improvement that we keep making slip up. We’ve got to continue to get better, get better, get better and let that propel us into the game on Saturday.”

Quarterback Feleipe Franks said the Gators aren’t going to have a letdown against the Commodores.

“It’s another SEC road game,” he said. “It’s not easy, it’s not easy to win road games, let alone an SEC game in general. We can’t take them lightly. We’re just got to keep on preparing, keep on having really good practices.

“And like Coach Mullen said, you’ve got to prepare for every team and if you don’t prepare you have the potential of losing a game. You’ve got to prepare for whoever you’re playing.”

29 COMMENTS

  1. look past Vandy ?? we will destroy those med students…. and then taking the crown in JAX is gonna be glorious. FSU basically begged UM to beat them…. This team is not losing again. 11-1. I’m already looking at Benz stadium tickets. Bama will probably beat us down, but saban is not coaching forever, and then we will be there to take what is rightfully ours…. Beautiful….

  2. Don’t forget Vandy almost beat Notre Dame in South Bend. Notre Dame is a pretty good team, so Vandy is no slouch. They play hard and are better than their record reflects. Vandy always plays the Gators tough especially at home. You have to continue to play hard on every play and we should have more talent than them but this is not a gimme game by any means.

    • agreed, 22 to 17, and notre dame is undefeated and plays tougher teams. my hope is in a game like this, is when something goes wrong, and it will, that it does not continue and spiral out of control if possible.

  3. What Coach Mullen needs to do is give the players a list of all the Florida/Vandy scores in the series. Then highlight the number of games that were close calls even when the Gators had National Championship caliber teams. The Commodores have a nasty habit of giving the Gators more than they bargained for.

  4. Vandy always makes me nervous in both football and basketball. We have a history of laying an egg in Nashville but, more times than not, end up with a win. Go Gators an get ready for that 11:00 est kick off.

  5. Plus the Vandy game is almost always relegated to the Noon game (EST) which means the game is played at 11am local time. Always a bad time to play a game and it seems particularly bad for Gator players. So the team should not in any way look past Vandy. Winning at Vandy will make the Gators bowl eligible so they should not take this game lightly.

  6. Vandy historically gives the Gators some fits in Nashville but loses. It’s been that way just about forever. The morning kick-off is worrisome and plays to Vandy’s advantage. However, this remains a young, hungry Florida team with plenty to prove and a boatload of skill position talent. The Commodores will play very hard, seeing this as a potential big win, but after awhile the Gators will separate significantly from the ‘Dores. We’ll know the mood and focus of our team by how the Gators come out of the gate. If Florida’s ready to go the Gators will wear down Vanderbilt’s defense with a strong running game and a quick passing attack to a wide array of receivers, and our defense will be in Kyle Schumer’s shoulder pads all day.

  7. Totally agree, Clyde. Remember the ’96 NC team went to Nashville and barely beat them and that team was waaaaaay more talented than this team. As soon as the schedule came out I circled this game as a trap game. Win this one and they can go into the bye week with a clear head. I for one am THOROUGHLY giddy after beating ls-who. All of the talk radio station callers here are crying about the loss. I am flying my Gator flags proudly on my truck around town and even ventured upon the lswho campus last night for a nightly stroll. Great win, Gators and way to turn out Gator Nation!! GEAUX GATORS!!!!

  8. I remember going to see the Vandy game in 1996 in Nashville. I was stationed at nearby Ft Campbell, and a gator buddy of mine was stationed at Ft Knox, so we met there for the game. We barely won the game and probably should have lost it. For those of you who don’t remember, that was the year we won our first national championship. Vandy has always played us tough, and considering that we are still a young team struggling on offense, this is certainly not a game to take lightly.

  9. I agree with all the concerns posted, but I’m hoping that Florida learned from the Kentucky game earlier this season. I think Kentucky is playing great this year, but I also think Florida took them lightly from some of the comments before the game about the streak continuing. If the Gators play 4 quarters as though the season depended on it, I think they can win it by a nice margin. If not it could be a long day. Go Gators!! Beat Vandy!!

  10. Unless things have changed there will be a large group of Gators making noise to support the Gators. Unfortunately I won’t be there, but I bet others will be. Nashville is a great place to stay a weekend, and celebrate another Gator victory. And the off week is a time for those that are dinged up to heal, and others to improve. You can install and practice some additional plays expanding the play book. No slacking off for this group.

  11. Let’s be thankful the Gators are good enough right now to be worthy of “trap game” discussion in the first place. But this is where head coaches really earn their keep. I often say about college sports – we’re talking about 18, 19, 20 year olds. Who knows where their heads are? Coach Dan better know where their heads are. And it’s on him to keep them on point. Hopefully the Gators remain humble enough and focused enough to make this a pedestrian road trip to a (let’s be honest) team they should beat. If they can get the win and stay healthy, then cue the mega-hype for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. But, please Gators, do this one first.

  12. Daughter #1 was a ‘Duke’ ( at FCS runner-up JMU ).
    Daughter #2 just became a ‘Gator’.

    I love to follow both football programs now… their success helps me tolerate the onset of nasty Northern Winter weather!

    Looking forward to convincing ‘non-trap’ victories from both programs tomorrow … GO GATORS !