The Back Nine: Surgery didn’t stop Mullen from coaching vs. Auburn

Florida quarterback John Brantley looks to throw during a 2007 practice as offensive coordinator Dan Mullen watches. [TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun/File]

The Back Nine comes at you feeling a little different than I have felt in a long time because ’dem Auburn boys and ’dem GameDay boys are coming to town. We missed you both.

10. I had to ask Dan Mullen on Monday about the 2007 game against Auburn, the last time the War Eagles/Tigers came to The Swamp because it was still one of the strangest games I’ve seen here. Mullen had an emergency appendectomy at 11 the night before the game, slipping in a back door at Shands. Mullen called Urban Meyer and told him he might not make the game. “The next morning, I get up. Before you can get signed out, you’ve got to, like, pee so many times, right?” Mullen said. “Walk around. I was given this big jug, and I’m, like, pounding water, and I’m, like, doing laps. The lady’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m walking around trying to drink so I can pee so you guys can get me out of here and I can go coach a football game. They’re like, will you just go relax? They had me go relax.” Mullen showed up for the final walk-through at the team hotel Saturday morning and then was involved in a fender-bender as he rode in a police car. (It gets worse). “I sleep for about two hours,” Mullen said. “I’m trying to get off the pain medication so I’m a little bit more clear in my head.” Florida had a dynamic offense including a guy named Tim Tebow who won the Heisman Trophy that year. But the Gators were shut out in the first half, finished with only 312 yards of offense and lost on a field goal at the end of the game. Mullen said he didn’t think the situation affected his playcalling. I beg to differ. Anyway. “My wife’s like, ‘You’re completely out of your mind to be doing this,” Mullen said. “Honestly probably now, I’ve got kids and all that stuff. It’s just a football game. I would sit on the hospital bed and watch the game from the hospital today.”

11. One reason Florida’s Q-rating (is that still a thing?) isn’t all that high is because Florida hasn’t looked consistent on offense. And a big reason it hasn’t looked consistent on offense is because of the lack of plays. And some of it is on the defense as good as it has been. (Florida only had three possessions that mattered in the first half Saturday). A year ago, Florida averaged 68.5 plays a season and a lot of it is reflected on the back end. This year, Florida is only running 63.4 plays a game. That’s even fewer than the awful 2017 team (“awful” may seem harsh, but you are what your record is). Fewer possessions mean fewer chances to score and fewer opportunities to try out different things in a game. It seems like a lot of people want to dismiss Florida as the “worst of the unbeatens” which, of course, is better than “best of the two-loss teams.”

12. Obviously, winning isn’t enough when it comes to The Associated Press football poll. Florida has dropped a spot twice after winning football games, including this week. And Clemson and Alabama switched places even though both are undefeated. It seems like not too long ago we were all tired of the Alabama-Clemson monopoly in the polls, but this week a lot of people finally quit thinking like robots. I confess, I was late to the party, as well, to rank teams based on what they have done this year instead of reputation, brand and expectations. (Heck, we might as well slide Yale and Sewanee into the Top 25.). This week there were five different teams that received No. 1 votes, which shows that not everybody is a Stepford voter. Three of us had Auburn No. 1 (one was a writer from New Jersey, another from Oklahoma). It’s great that we are heading to October with a lot of possibilities. It gave everybody something to talk about, mainly how far do your drop Clemson?

13. The paranoia of college football coaches is amazing. I think if you ranked jobs based on paranoia, college football coaches would rank just above international spies. I bring this up because Tennessee announced it won’t name a starting quarterback this week against Georgia. “We’re not going to give Georgia a scouting report of what we’re going to do this week,” said Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt. Ooooh, that’s going to have the Bulldogs shaking in their boots. It’s like the coaches who list Player A OR Player B on their depth charts. It’s all so silly.

14. We are five games into this season so it seems like a perfect time to ask the question on everyone’s mind — Didn’t You Used To Be?

… Preseason No. 12 ranked Texas A&M? Somehow the Aggies are still ranked, hanging onto a tie for 25th despite its best win being over dreadful Arkansas by four.

… Red-hot Justin Fuente? Virginia Tech is 3-7 in its last 10 games and was just humiliated by Duke. DUKE!

… Charlie Strong on a roll? USF started last season 7-0. The Bulls have won once since then, over an FCS team.

… Nebraska’s return to glory? GameDay made an appearance but it didn’t go well for the Huskers, 48-7 losers. Scott Frost is now 7-10 at NU.

… Georgia Tech? In its last two games, Geoff Collins has lost to The Citadel and scored two points against Temple. We knew it would be a rough transition, but, sheesh.

…. Unbeaten Kentucky with a 21-10 lead on Florida at home? Since that point, the Wildcats have been outscored 71-20 and quickly moved to 2-3. What happened?

… The Pac-12’s playoff aspirations? They were slim to start the season, but already the league has zero teams with zero losses.

… An employed Chris Ash? And so the carousel lights are turned on.

15. I am not happy. The Braves finished the regular season by losing five of six, including one in 11 innings Sunday to the Mets. And now it’s the Cardinals. The Braves haven’t won a series from the Cardinals since Danny Wuerffel’s Heisman season. Atlanta has lost two key reserves and its biggest stars are on the mend. Doesn’t look good. Oh, who am I kidding? I have playoff baseball to go along with my football fever so I couldn’t be happier. OK, so Dallas Keuchel is starting the opener Thursday. That’s why I have a remote.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars fans must be freaking out. They have had to deal with the Jalen Ramsey thing and along comes this guy with the cheesy mustache to save the day. Gardner Minshew is making the kind of plays that make you shake your head and in a good way. Jacksonville shouldn’t trade Ramsey. The Jags should just drive him down to Miami and drop him at the Dolphins’ front door. Who needs draft picks? Just get rid of the distraction.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Matt Zenitz of — “Three FBS quarterbacks threw for 400 yards yesterday. All three were part of the Alabama QB room last year. — Layne Hatcher: 440 yards and four TDs in his first start for Arkansas State — Tua Tagovailoa: 418 yards and six passing TDs — Jalen Hurts: 415 yards, three passing TDs.” Now that’s a quarterback room.

18. It was a great weekend that included nine holes of golf and my first birdie since I started this latest post-surgery comeback (I’ve missed a lot of putts). I also tooled around in a golf cart at Ironwood listening to this playlist:

“Don’t Ever Leave Me” by the Cocktail Slippers.

• Sometimes you hear a song deep in an album and think it should be a huge hit but it isn’t because the A&R man says he doesn’t hear a single. I hadn’t heard this very cool song in a bit — “You and I Will Meet Again” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

• “Hey, I’m Just Like You” by Tegan and Sara.

• “Pressure’s Off” by Kelsey Kopecky.

• And for an old one that takes me back to a time when I was a student and Florida played Auburn every year, “Blue Sky” by The Allman Brothers Band.

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


  1. This season’s early schedule should be instructional to Scott Stricklin when in comes to scheduling FCS opponents. Scheduling one FCS in a season is bad, scheduling two is worse, playing poorly in both games because your players were “bored” is a disaster. So now, the Gators are the “worst of the unbeaten.”

    Thank goodness the Gators play in the SEC. If they get through October STILL undefeated, that label will be dropped and all will be forgiven. Imagine what this season might be like if the Gators had to play Clemson’s schedule the rest of the way? Yikes! 😱

    GO GATORS!!!

    • Totally agree StL……they are different divisions for a reason, and with 5 each Power-5 and 5 each Group of 5 conferencess + a few independents to choose from in your own division, I never actually got why any major college team would do this. Of course, the National Guild of Left Wing Sports Writers is already ready to apply radical egalitarianism to close the gap between “big” and “little” schools, already nattering about the same on the heels of California making all athletics professional — so maybe in a couple of years it won’t matter. What bugs me even more tho is how all the preseason hype about certain teams can make your early victory over them look bad later — and hence, affect the rankings — when they get revealed by everybody else too. Miami and Kentucky come to mind, but I’m just a hater and internet troll anyway.

      • 6,

        Are you telling me you would be fine not being compensated in some fashion for the use of your name and likeness, were you a stud college football player?

        Not all of the top players make bank in the NFL. Some suffer serious injuries, which prevent them from playing professionally, or that will follow them around for the rest of their lives, even if they don’t play football after college.

        I know there is great value in the scholarship, especially now that the scholarship include the full cost of attendance. That being said, the time demands put these kids by football are such that it is difficult to impossible for them to have part time employment. Many come from less than affluent backgrounds and their families may not have the funds to provide spending money. How would you like to be a college kid with little to no money to take a lady on a date, or go party with teammates, classmates, and friends? I side with the HBC on this one; his idea was for coaches to fund small payments to players.

        I am not sure if the new law stipulates how much the players whose names and likenesses are used should be compensated. Perhaps all such licensing fees could be pooled and used to fund some sort of monthly stipend for all athletes, with maybe a little more for the names that drive sales.

        I am just spitballin’ here, but I know how much it would have sucked not to have mad money in my college days. I worked around twenty hours a week, at Alan’s Cubana and The Copper Monkey back in the day to pay for my fun. Players don’t have the same opportunity.

        Just my $0.02…


        • Hey buddy — As I was writing that post, I actually did ask myself who I know that would not see it the same. Then I thought, Albert! 🙄

          Seriously tho, I take your point and it’s a good one. See, I actually wrote that without calling you a long haired hippy commie pinko from California. Of course, that was only because I know where you’re really from.

          Lit up any good cigars for games lately? I’m getting hooked on Brickhouse 6×60 at game time, and if I supplement it with an Oliva Nub I’m good for 4 quarters and OT if it ever happens.

        • Albert, I’m probably going to steal 6’s thunder here. Nevertheless, where do I start?

          First, we’re slowly losing sight of the purpose of going to college for most of these young men. The full ride scholarships avail every one of them with the tools they’ll need to make a good living after football. The professional contacts they make through boosters will insure that is the case for all who are interested. That’s true whether they ever play a down of NFL football.

          Second, these guys are rock stars in Hog Town. Anywhere they go, they are comped meals, drinks, entrance to clubs, etc., etc., etc. On top of that, they also get a periodic cash stipend for miscellaneous expenses as part of their scholarship. Believe me, they don’t suffer.

          Third, paying college athletes a “wage” for their “services” establishes a precedent. Once that first step is taken, it’s only a matter of time before college football become minor league professional football played on university campuses. Taking their cue from NFL players, how long will it be before the best demand bigger contracts and jump from school to school in order to maximize their “wages.” Can you imagine Tim Tebow being bought up by UGA after his freshman season and winning his Heisman Trophy and 2nd NC as a Dawg??? 😱😱😱

          If you suggest making the NCAA pay for injury insurance policies that will pay out if players get hurt and never play in the NFL, that can be worked out. If you suggest the NFL start up a minor league for those players who are not cut for going to college and studying for a degree, I’m listening. Otherwise, politicians should leave college football alone. It works just fine as is.

          • That’s a helluva lot more thunder than I ever had, bud……I’m agin it because I’m a purist when it comes to amature athletics.

          • STL Gator:

            I am fine with your scenario, if the gaming companies cannot use names and likenesses, and apparel companies are not be allowed to put names on jerseys. In short, no company or organization makes an impacted a$$ full of money, which (probably) far exceeds the cost of a scholarship, on the name and likeness of actual players.

            I cannot think of another instance of where a person is not compensated for, and is powerless to stop the use of their name and/or likeness by another party.

          • P.S. I know it happens everywhere, and all the time (at least at big schools) but the freebies you describe are against the rules of the organization, based in Overland Park Kansas, that makes an impacted a$$ful of money on the names and likenesses of players without their consent.

          • This may be naive, but circling back to 6’s “amateur athletics purity” argument, perhaps the solution here lies in NOBODY profiting on use of amateur athletes’ names, autographs and likenesses. Schools selling merchandise can put popular players’ numbers on merchandise, but NOT their names. Video game companies may do the same and pay the universities if they use their logos. And players on NCAA scholarship may not, under loss of scholarship threat, profit from their likenesses, or autographs, nor be required to provide autographs, outside very limited official UA meet-the-fans functions.

            Sadly, given modern American culture, things will most likely NOT go that way.

          • Daz has a solution off line that should make everyone happy, and as far as being a conservative I’d rate him slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun. If he doesn’t weigh in within a day or two, I’ll share it with you guys.

          • “…perhaps the solution here lies in NOBODY profiting on use of amateur athletes’ names, autographs and likenesses.”

            Yes sir, my point exactly!

  2. It’s sad seeing that pic of John Brantley. What a great talent, totally screwed by “Family Time” Meyer. He deserved more playing time while Tebow was recovering from that Wildcat concussion, and the next year he deserved a coach that was all-in. All he got were sacks, and Charlie Weiss. That was shameful.

    • Agree, Gatorgrin. As traitorous as it sounds, I think he should’ve signed with SOS at SC. He was a square peg in a round hole in the spread option, and Muschamp’s conservative, defensive offense didn’t help him either. Spurrier could’ve utilized his skills to much greater effect. Sad to say, but at UF, his talent was wasted and his potential ruined.

  3. “…. Unbeaten Kentucky with a 21-10 lead on Florida at home? Since that point, the Wildcats have been outscored 71-20 and quickly moved to 2-3. What happened?”…. Thats so easy, I dont know why he asked the question. What Happened? Franks was the starter. Had Trask been the starter from the get go the score would have been closer to 38-7, which would have been more like their games since.
    The idea that someones “name and likeness fees” should be “spread around” to others is called… wait for it…Marxism!!!! Just so you know what you really believe. I agree Stl and 6, but I dont believe the University should be allowed to make buck off someone’s name and likeness, that belongs to them. Either dont use it or find a way to compensate that person. I dont agree with Spurrier, ishna on the alarysa’s!
    I feel sorry for Scott Stricklin. He just didnt realize how easy it was to recruit when you are in the belly of the recruiting ground and how hard it was going to be in the middle of NOWHERE! Neb hasnt been a powerhouse since I was a child and that was when football was 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Thats what they were known for, run , run, and run some more!; with big, corn fed, farmer boys!
    It’s an embarrassment to the voters for Clemson to still be ranked that high after barely winning over a very bad NC; the win was an embarrassment! My point being they still give cred to a team, not for what theyve done but for who they were last year which has NOTHING to do with this season! You havent made it yet, Dooley!

    • I agree Daz! As written in my post above, universities should only profit from uniform numbers, not player names or likenesses, mainly because those numbers belong to the universities while the names and likenesses do not. However, if the players want to be profiting as professionals, then give up the scholarships and be professionals. Neither party in this battle can have it both ways and still call it an AMATEUR sport!