Hypothetical: Florida turnovers could have been touchdowns, Mullen says

Florida coach Dan Mullen and quarterback Feleipe Franks chat during a timeout Saturday at the Camping World Kickoff against Miami at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. [Matt Pendleton/Correspondent]

Florida coach Dan Mullen on Wednesday presented a “What If” defense for suddenly beleaguered quarterback Feleipe Franks, who has drawn all kinds of criticism for his three-turnover performance in the win over Miami last Saturday.

What if his first-down interception with less than five minutes remaining had gone for a Gator touchdown instead?

That’s what Mullen was looking for when he called the play — a touchdown.

“We felt we set them up for this play,” Mullen said. “We felt that they were going to be ready to stop the run because we’re going to try to run out the clock. We’re going to hit them with this play-action pass, guy’s going to be wide open and we hit an explosive play.

“If that happens, you flip Feleipe’s stats. He’s 18 of 26 for 320 yards passing, three touchdowns and a pick and he has all the answers: ‘What an unbelievable game. Look at his development through the offseason. Unbelievable.’ ”

That, of course, is not what happened.

What happened is the Hurricanes put instant pressure on Franks. He responded by trying to throw the ball away, but didn’t have enough on his pass to get it out of bounds and the ball was intercepted.

It was Franks’ third turnover of the game and it’s led to a great deal of criticism directed at him on social media and the regular media.

In retrospect, Mullen said Franks should have taken a sack on the play.

“Boy, that’s real hard to teach,” Mullen said. “It’s really hard to teach guys to take sacks. He was trying to throw it away and he doesn’t get enough on it and it gets picked. Maybe not a great call by me. All the combinations in that one call.”

That one negative play may have defined Franks’ performance in the eyes of the critics, but Mullen said his quarterback’s overall performance was, for the most part, positive.

“Could he make better decisions at different times in the game?” Mullen said. “Yeah, probably ones that people wouldn’t even talk about or know about that I’d look into. We could have made this read better, could have made that read better. But overall in the first game I thought he did (good) things.There were a lot of positives.”

Perhaps the biggest positive was the way Franks responded after throwing his first interception on an overthrow to wide receiver Freddie Swain earlier in the fourth quarter.

On his very next play, Franks threw a 65-yard strike to wide receiver Josh Hammond. Two plays later, Franks scored the winning touchdown on a three-yard run.

“He threw a pick in the fourth quarter that could have been the deciding factor of the game,” Mullen said. “The next time we got the ball, he accounted for every yard on that drive that we scored the touchdown.

“He accounted for every yard, either running or throwing, on the game-winning touchdown drive. I don’t know if Feleipe Franks could have done that last year. I think that pick might have affected him. Instead of him coming back in, not even the blink of an eye, he accounted for every play on the scoring drive.

“What if he hits that pass for a touchdown on that (second interception)? Everyone makes a whole different deal out of things.”

Franks’ other turnover came on a fumbled exchange with running back Lamical Perine inside the UM 10-yard line in the first half. Mullen said that play should have gone for a touchdown.

“We missed an exchange on a run/pass option and we end up fumbling the ball and we don’t fall on it, they fall on it,” Mullen said. “If he pulls it out and makes the throw, it’s a touchdown.”

Mullen said UF’s other lost fumble, by Malik Davis in the first half, also could have gone for six points.

“Malik Davis dropped the pitch,” Mullen said. “If you look at that on the film, it might have been a touchdown if he catches the pitch.”

For the Gators, and especially Franks, there were a lot of “What Ifs” that could have made the reaction to UF’s win a lot different than it’s been on social media.

Up next

Who: Tennessee-Martin (0-0) vs. No. 8 Florida (1-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


  1. What if. Well, a busted play could always have gone for a touchdown I suppose. Then again, given the way the offense was generally going for most of this game, which I’m confident that history will record as against an inferior opponent, lets just chalk it up to we were blessed to escape with a win this time. Not bad, not great, but as a great old platoon sergeant used to say, “Son, sometime shyt just beez thataway”.

    Everybody should improve. Including Franks. We’ve got this one behind us, thankfully. Look forward.

  2. Coulda, shoulda, woulda…

    If “ifs” and “buts” were candies and nuts, oh what an epic a$$ whoopin’ of the Canes it would have been.

    Sorry CDM, I have no need for smoke up my posterior.


  3. What if UF scored every time we touched the ball. What if UF recovered all the fumbles. What if we recovered all the um fumbles and scored TDs. What if we had 20 sacks. I am glad uf has DM as coach but come on man. Franks didn’t play great but he didn’t stink either. He had some very good plays and a few stinkers and frankly, your play calling wasn’t top notch to say the least. There is no doubt UF will learn from these mistakes and will see playing UM first game will pay great dividends. But playing this what if game is like trying to put lipstick on a pig. Move on and fix the mistakes.

    • More like trying to mud wrestle with a pig, to me anyway. Every single mistake made out there Saturday night — and I don’t care about Miami’s one iota — is very correctable given the 2-3 weeks we have to do it in. I think that’s a done deal, John. But what keeps nagging at me, and maybe it’s just me, is what I saw as a total lack of a sense of urgency at times. More than enough times, actually. That’s how we started out last year too, but we can’t afford the time this year for it to take as long as it did in 2018 to correct. And brother, going back to last year again, was it a different team or what when it did? Now, I’m not talking about learning a new playbook, and again, maybe it’s just me, but attitude can be dangerous. What do you think?

  4. Franks, IMO is an average college QB, but he sure looks like an NFL QB in appearance…still has the same problems as a freshman…this kid can throw the ball 80 yds and I’m really pulling for him to succeed…but he is capable of winning every game he plays in, but, at the same time, he can also lose every game he plays in…the problem is he is not a true leader of this team, he never takes responsibility for his mistakes, always has a logical excuse in his mind why his mistakes happened…he is still very immature and runs around after making a good play or TD like a 14 year old kid…celebrations should be a team event on the side lines and not on the field or end zone and not an individual performance in the end zone…sooner or later it will result in a penalty at a critical time in the game. Franks, needs to be more consistent and accurate in his passing game. it seems like for every good play he makes 4 bad plays, His first interception was to a wide open Swain, but too high, had he thrown the lower, and hits Swain on the run, the play probably results in a TD or certainly would have had the ball 1st and 10 within the red zone, rather than 3 points for Miami… wanting or saying you are a leader is not the same as being a true leader … all three games UF lost last year were the result of their QB outplayed ours…I do wish Mullen was a little more like Spurrier and would pull a QB after several bad plays and talk with him before sending him back in after a series of plays…I will say Trask is the most accurate and consistent passer on this team but lacks the athleticism of Franks and Jones…Jones is certainly the most athletic of the QB’s, but not quite there yet…I would love to see Franks outplay the likes of Fromm and Tua…and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that he does…this may be the best group of RW’s UF has ever had, they are all big strong and fast…This years team will be very good and could win it all with a little luck and Franks can become more consistent in his dicisions.

    • Thanks, Cody, for your insights. Know you’ve been kind of “tied down” the last week or so, but wondering if you made it to any practices during fall camp. If so, see anything there that more or less foreshadowed the rust and mistakes we saw during the game?

      • The biggest surprise was the defense trying to tackle runners running straight ahead…In camp they tackled well…I do think they will certainly work this out for the next game…I really like this team, more athletes on this team across the board than I’ve ever seen at Florida…just wish we had that QB that could take advantage of the talent this team has,,,just wish Franks could play more like Fromm, UF would be unbeatable.

  5. I would like for Coach Mullen to address the elephant in the room and talk about Franks celebrating with fans in the 3rd quarter. It was obvious that Mullen was talking to Franks after the incident. It’s not Frank’s play it’s his leadership, or lack thereof that’s the problem. You can fix physical mistakes–you can’t fix stupid. He’s a tremendous athlete, we’ll see if Mullen can mold him into the leader that it’s gonna take to for this team to take the next step.

    • birdman, your reference to Franks being “a tremendous athlete” made me think about what that means. I think one can be a great athlete by having a good combination of size, strength, endurance, speed, quickness, agility, and hand-eye coordination. Those qualities alone can bring an athlete success in sports like track and field, where the goal is to out-run, out-jump, or out-throw the opponent. On the other hand, in a sport where there’s one or more defenders actively trying to stop you, that’s when the ability to quickly read the situation, recognize the correct response, and react fast enough to execute that response becomes critical. I guess that’s been the debate about Franks all along. He has the physical skills, but does have, or can he develop the mental skills required to succeed at QB? I’m sure Gator-6 can utilize his training to give an in-depth answer to that question.