The Back Nine: Mullen had a winning plan vs. FSU

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow celebrates his second-quarter touchdown against Florida State in this Nov. 29, 2008 game in Tallahassee. Florida won 45-15.(AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

The Back Nine comes at you after a wild weekend and the final home game in what has been an interesting season of Gator football.

10. The trip Saturday to Tallahassee for Florida’s football team hopefully will be a nice day weather-wise (there is a chance of morning showers), but it won’t be like the game 10 years ago. The No. 2 Gators needed the win more than the No. 23 Seminoles, as Florida was trying to get back to a national title game appearance. But at pre-game warmups, the field was a quagmire from incessant rain. “The field was standing water, ankle deep,” said Florida coach Dan Mullen. “But (in warmups), I don’t think a ball touched the ground. Urban (Meyer) was freaking out, ‘What are we going to do?’ He said, ‘We’re going to snap it to (Tim) Tebow and run up the middle every play.’ ” But Mullen told Meyer the Gators needed to air it out early and take advantage of the receivers knowing where they were going. “In classic Urban fashion, he looked like his head was going to explode,” Mullen said. Florida did wing it around, calling 16 passing plays in the first half on its way to a big lead 28-9 and rolled over FSU 45-15. Tebow threw for three touchdowns and, of course, had his great Braveheart moment after Percy Harvin was injured and the FSU fans cheered. None of this has anything to do with anything that will happen this week, but Mullen seemed to enjoy retelling the story as much as you did remembering it.

11. It’s funny how the perception of this game Saturday changed with one play, the 74-yard pass to Tamorrion Terry that allowed Florida State to beat Boston College. Until that moment, I wondered if the Seminoles would have any fight in them this week knowing they couldn’t go to a bowl game. Instead, after the win made them 5-6, they were dancing in the locker room and feeling like a new team. This much we know — FSU’s five-game win streak against Florida has been built more on defense than offense. In those five games, the Semis have only averaged 308 yards per game. But Florida has turned it over 11 times. FSU is a talented team (Mullen called Florida State “very, very, very talented”) that has underachieved terribly, but could make its season with a win over Florida. That’s dangerous.

12. So if someone came down from the Vega System and wanted to know about this sport football, you probably would have asked them to wait a week until there were some really big games. And yet, Saturday was about as much fun watching games as I’ve had this year. That’s the beauty of college football. There were so many people complaining about the slate of games and there we were riveted to Ohio State-Maryland, West Virginia-Oklahoma State, FSU-BC and on and on it went. Yes, I watched most of the UCF game and thought it was a great weekend for the school and the program. It didn’t change my basic thought process about where it belongs in my AP poll. Other teams lost so I moved the Knights up to ninth. UCF is really good. But they are still hamstrung by who they play. It’s not necessarily their fault, but until I see them play a Power Five schedule, it’s difficult to judge just how good they are. If they get into a New Year’s Six bowl game, well, it’s one game.

13. As is often the case with a coaching hire, there are two wildly different schools of thought on Les Miles being hired at Kansas. There are those who think this is a splash move with no substance and those who believe it’s just dummy. I get why it was tempting for Kansas if only so the Jayhawks public relations people could send out the graphic that Kansas is the only school with national championship coaches in football and basketball (as if the school earned that football bling). But Kansas basically hired a 65-year-old coach whose career was on the decline when he was fired at LSU. It just feels like a dead-end situation (why did no other schools go after Miles?) that will take a long time to turn around if it turns around at all. I guess he has to stop doing those Dos Equis commercials. Anyway, it’s cool to get the Mad Hatter back in college football.

14. If the summer is talking season, late November and the first week of December is voting season. I talked last week about how the Heisman Trophy is not the closed race we thought it was and nothing changed Saturday. But I also have other voting duties like the Biletnikoff, the AP All-American team and the AP All-SEC team. I have been trying to think which Florida players I might put on those teams and have come up with a couple of guys on defense, but the only person on offense who has a chance to make the first or second team is Martez Ivey, who has been erratic at best. That shows you what a good job Mullen has done with this team. This is going to be actual work voting this year. For example, five of the top 16 punters in college football are in the SEC. Which two do I pick?

15. A couple of quick college football notes — former Gator offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is the interim head coach at Colorado. How much has that guy lost on deposits? And Kerwin Bell’s Valdosta State team is the No. 1 seed in the Div. II playoffs and will face No. 4 seed Bowie State on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Valdosta. The fewest points the Blazers scored in a game this year was 44. But Les Miles makes more sense, right?

16. In theory, Florida’s basketball trip to the Bahamas should be an advantage for the Gators in that they have been playing 11 to 12 guys and now will have three games in three days starting with Wednesday’s noon game against Oklahoma. At the same time, Florida coach Mike White knows that playing so many guys probably is affecting the lack of perimeter shooting for his team (26.1 percent from 3-point land). “I don’t know if we can continue to play this many guys and find an offensive rhythm,” White said. “So I’d like to pare it down a little bit. That said, I don’t want to hand these guys anything either. We have a few guys that are capable of being 25-minute, 27-minute-a-game guys, but they have to be 27 quality. And I want them to go take those minutes to be the best team we can be.” The Lon Kruger-coached Sooners are 3-0.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from the excellent singer/songwriter Jason Isbell — “Everybody in my house is bawling at this Elton John commercial and that includes me and I’m also watching football.” If you haven’t seen the commercial, find it on the Interweb. Wonder what game Isbell was watching?

18. So I was listening to The Beatles Channel the other day and they were finishing up this segment where the host played the 18 songs by the Fab Four that started with singing instead of music. So I tried to name as many as I could. I settled on my five faves for a playlist:

• “If I Fell”

• “Nowhere Man”

• “I Will”

• “All My Loving”

• “Can’t Buy Me Love”

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. As jobs continue opening at the FBS level it’s hard to comprehend Kerwin Bell being overlooked. The guy is an offensive mastermind, gets the most out of his players and is as likable as a head coach can be. Meantime, Dan Mullen’s coaching at Florida has had a transformational effect. I’d rather we beat an aroused, competitive Florida State team than one resigned to losing. But Mullen will outcoach Willie Taggart whose decision making and staff overall don’t match up against Mullen and the Florida staff. The Gators need to take control early and build from there.

    • Kerwin has performed at the very top level of the SEC, and in light of his coaching successes, I believe he deserves a FBS opportunity. I know 60s are the new 40s, but Les Miles brain, and mine, are along ways from the 18-22 year olds of today.

  2. I’m also very surprised that Kerwin Bell hasn’t been offered even an FBS Offensive Coordinator position. I have a sneaky suspicion that his small-town roots has been keeping him very low key when it comes to coaching positions and that it’s very possible that he’s turned down jobs that have been offered to him before his name even gets out as a possible candidate for job openings. Who knows with these things, but we do know that most ADs put out feelers before even starting out coaching searches, so he could’ve easily turned down things that nobody even knows about. I still agree that he would be an amazing coach, and was bummed when Muschamp didn’t go after him harder to replace Charlie Weiss when he left for Kansas. And in regard to there, I think bringing in a coach with a history of head coaching success at the highest level of college football is a good thing for them and him. There’s going to be a long leash for Miles, and as far as Kansas…..what have they really got to lose? Not like they have a history of success, and just had one head coach that just didn’t work out.

  3. Even tho it is the popular narrative — and we all know what happens when journalists get going on something like that — I don’t think the actual evidence clearly demonstrates that Les Miles was in fact “on the decline” when he was fired at LSU. Don’t get me wrong, I found the guy infuriating at times….although that doesn’t negate my respect for him as a coach…..but I wouldn’t call two 10-3 seasons, followed by an 8-5 flat spot and a 9-3 recovery exactly a decline of the proportions required to dismiss him after a 2-2 start. I’d suggest the fault laid in the clown who pretends to be the Athletic Director out there.

    Now, so much as pertains to Kerwin Bell…..what’s it going to take? Hello?

    • 6…. you know how I feel about Joe Alleva…. don’t get me started. I agree 100% with your Les Miles comments. Les’ biggest problem was not developing a QB (sound familiar). With a solid QB, his “archaic” offense (I’ve heard that a lot about him in the past day or so) would’ve still been effective…maybe not entertaining by today’s standards, but effective. IF Les hires a quality OC and lets him coach and IF he finds a solid QB… Kansas may actually become respectable again.

  4. Les Miles to Kansas is a head scratcher. How is he going to recruit there? No tradition at all in football. Their closest, historical geographic rival is Missouri. You have to figure the recruiting grounds overlap. How does he wean a kid away from the SEC? I guess the money spends all the same. Good luck, Hat. You’re gonna need it.

    • When you think about Kansas recruiting, you have to recognize that they’re pinned in with overlap to not only the SEC, but PAC-12, BIG10, BIG-12, and not to even mention some good teams in the Mountain West for some of those talented 3 stars. Not good with their history — but it can be done. They will be competitive with Miles, but I doubt if they’ll ever get to championship level even if they seriously upgrade their facilities.

      • All true, but just say that Les hits a homerun and hires someone like Hugh Freeze and they start building an exciting offense…anything is possible in the Big 12. Lawrence Kansas is not easy to recruit to…I get it… but high flying highlight reel football is….

        • I really hadn’t thought of that, Rog….by jove, you’re onto something there!

          From out here — Big-12 country or what’s left of it — the survival of the conference is a pretty big topic every year. The defection of Nebraska, Colorado, and Mizzou — coupled now with the woes of TCU and Baylor and the perpetual problems of Texas Tech — leaves Texas and Oklahoma, and sometimes Oklahoma State, as the only programs of merit. I didn’t mention West Virginia since that’s about as geographically stupid as BYU joining the ACC…….

          So maybe if your idea comes to fruition and Kansas does become a consistent winner, who knows? Maybe Les Miles will get credit for saving not just a school, but a whole conference too. Come to think of it, maybe even Mizzou will want to go back where they came from and even swap out with West Virginia to do it! 🤣

          • A West Virginia for Mizzou swap….. I like that. A lot! But Greg Sankey would never let that happen….not enough TV eyeballs in Blue Ridge Country 🙂

  5. In all seriousness, I believe Les Miles will do as well as or better than anyone else Kansas could have hired, given the structural recruiting difficulties there. 65 isn’t over the hill by any means these days. Just ask Bill Snyder and Nick Saban.

    Les will get some recruits to Kansas that wouldn’t have come otherwise. That said, even with his one national championship, Les arguably under-performed at LSU. LSU is a lot like Georgia: Neither school has direct instate competition for a perennially bountiful supply of elite instate recruits. I’m actually curious to see if Kirby regresses to the Mark Richt recruiting class mean once he has exhausted the player relationships he built while wearing his Nick Saban halo as an Alabama staffer.

  6. Not everyone in Hogtown plays ”Hacky sack”, listening to ”Indie” or ”The Beatles.”
    So… here’s some REAL JAMZ from the 80’s to 90’s for GEN. ‘X’ readers with rhythm: Cybotron’s ”Clear”, Egyptian Lover’s, ”Eygpt, Eygpt!”, Newcleus, ”Jam on it!”, and ya’ can’t wrong with some Quad City D.J.s, ”Work baby, work!” And it’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Tebow’s ”Brave Heart moment.”
    Time goes in one direction, memories in another! Go Gators!

  7. That Team Out West is a dangerous team/game for Florida. Notwithstanding it’s a rivalry game, they have a lot of incentive to maintain their bowl streak. A fast start for Florida to grab early momentum and create doubt in the team and fans is a key to the game. I like Florida’s coaching advantage. Mullen will have the right game plan. Let’s hope Franks and the defense execute it to perfection. Regardless I feel better about Florida’s chances of winning than I have in a long time.

    • MexiGator, Right you are on the need for a fast start. The noon kick time troubles me. Can the Gators afford to start slow and sloppy and still win? I don’t know. Go ask the Canes. More than any other game, spitting the bit against UM has to hurt the most this year. I doubt the Nolies will give it up so easy if they get up big against the Gators. The Gators must start fast (or at least as fast as FSU). They must win the turnover battle. As Pat pointed out, the Nolies haven’t exactly buzzed the field these last few games against UF. Our D has played well enough to win. The O just kept giving the ball away. Gators should have a clear coaching edge – organization, discipline, scheme. But they really have an edge in that Francois has been a tackling dummy all year. Our biggest mismatch is our D line v Nole’s O line. The Gators need to put Francois on his back – a lot. Go Gators.

  8. Who else is Kansas going to get as a head coach? It’s a graveyard. No real up and comer head coach would be foolish enough to end his head coaching career taking that job. Kansas could take a chance on a lower tier head coach like a Kerwin Bell or an assistant coach at a bigger program. Les Miles was an Oklahoma State head coach before LSU so the Big 10 and Kansas isn’t completely foreign to him. However, his offense doesn’t translate to the Big 10, but he may bring defense to it.

  9. I get annoyed at all of the bashing of the hatter when second raters like champ still have jobs. At least the hatter had a prime. And the ole ball coach had his best years as a coach when he was past his prime temporarily turning around a hopeless situation at scar.
    Anyway maybe the stars will align for Kerwin to take over at Georgia tech and if so I’m thinking he can get them back to elite status. It was said about war and some other things too that it starts with emotions and ends with logic. Maybe it takes time to recruit but if he gets tech excited they will get the players over Georgia.
    When it comes to the Gators I’m still thinking Frank’s can leap his development. It’s like Steve young…when coached by the bucs it was looking like he was headed to a nice career as an attorney but a good coach plus a few arguments later he became a hall of famer. I like Jones but I just want to see Franks shut us all up for good. This week I might add. It can happen.

    • Man alive, Kerwin Bell to Georgia Tech is about the best suggestion I’ve heard all week, Mveal — and he’s right there in their own backyard, so to speak. Probably won’t happen for reasons unknown/undisclosed, but sure would make a fan out of me!

    • I think this game against FSU will be the biggest of his career for Franks. If he leads us to a victory, he has a chance to finally be the qb we all want. If he struggles and our Gators lose, it will probably be the end of his Gator career. At that point Mullen can play Jones in the bowl game and start getting ready for 2019. Here’s hoping Franks delivers a blowout victory!!

  10. Remember Pepper Rodgers? He was kind of a hot coach who went to Kansas. I don’t remember the years. But he turned a real downtrodden KU team into a powerhouse. When KU came running out onto the field, it felt like Alabama was running out onto the field. It’s amazing what one coach can do for a team. Whether Les can do that for KU, we’ll see. Personally, I think he’s a goofball and he claps funny.

  11. Maybe Kerwin’s swift turn around at Valdosta State will get him some notoriety. He deserves at the very least a Div-I OC job. He’s learned from the best, has proven his abilities, and ought to be given an opportunity to join the coaching ranks at a higher level.
    Too bad Champ didn’t hire him when he met with Bell in Jax to talk about the OC job at UF. Kerwin’s wide-open offense was probably in opposition to Champ’s conservative mindset.
    Some broadminded HC should latch onto him soon. That clock is still ticking.