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Smashing debut for Florida offensive coordinator Johnson

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask looks to pass during the second half Saturday against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. Trask passed for 416 yards, the most by a UF quarterback during an SEC game since Rex Grossman in 2001, in the win.

Steve Spurrier followed through Monday and presented Dan Mullen with a bottle of wine for the Gators’ record-breaking offensive performance in the win at Ole Miss last Saturday.

 Maybe he should have handed over a case to Brian Johnson.

 Johnson had probably the greatest debut of any offensive coordinator in Gator football history: 51 points, 642 total yards (the most by UF against an SEC foe), six touchdown passes.

 He easily eclipsed what Mullen produced in his first game as the offensive coordinator at UF in 2005. The Gators put up 32 points and had 411 total yards in a win over Wyoming.

 Johnson’s offense even flew past what Spurrier’s offense amassed in his first game as UF’s head coach in 1990 against Oklahoma State. Johnson out-Fun ‘n' Gunned Spurrier by one point (51-50), 114 passing yards, 75 total yards and five touchdown passes.

 So, maybe the wine should have gone to Johnson.

 Mullen, of course, calls a lot of the plays in his offense. But playcalling during games has been a collaborative effort among the offensive coaching staff the past two seasons, particularly Johnson.

 Johnson’s influence on how Saturday’s game was called might be reflected in the number six — as in six touchdown passes.

 “Brian Johnson, once you make him the coordinator right there we start (throwing the ball more),” Mullen said. “As he said (after the game), ‘If you let me call my own plays when I was playing for you (at Utah) I would have had six touchdowns all the time. I’d throw it every play.’

 “I’m probably a little bit more run heavy and he’s a little more pass heavy, and we end up throwing the ball a little more.” 

 Johnson, the former offensive coordinator at Houston, was the Gators’ quarterbacks coach the past two seasons and was promoted to offensive coordinator after the 2019 season.

 He said the new title has not changed his role a whole lot, although he’s now in the press box for games instead of on the sideline.

 “In terms of gameday operation, It’s been fairly similar,” Johnson said. “I’ve always been really, really heavily involved in calling plays throughout the course of my entire time here, and even back at Mississippi State.

 “We have some great coaches and we put together a really, really solid plan that our players went out and executed. In terms of our game planning and gameday operation, it was kind of business as usual calling the game.”

 UF’s offense was close to unstoppable. The 642 total yards was the 11th highest total in school history and set the school record for total yards against an SEC opponent.

 Most of the production came through the air (Johnson’s specialty). Quarterback Kyle Trask set a career high for passing yardage (416) and attempts (42) and tied his career high for completions (30). He is the sixth player in UF history to throw for six touchdowns in a game, one shy of the school record.

 Trask is Mullen’s first quarterback to throw for six TDs in a game.

 “I think it’s great,” Mullen said. “A lot of the credit goes to him and where he went with the ball and how fast he made those decisions. And how to get it to the right player. He knows we have a lot of confidence in his throwing the ball.

 “It does say a lot about him. I’ve had some pretty good quarterbacks over the years, so that’s a pretty unique deal. If he had thrown that ball a little quicker to Trent Whittemore, he would have had seven.”

 That’s a point well taken. As good and explosive as the offense was Saturday, everyone seems to agree it could have been —and can be — better.

 “We had a couple opportunities down in the red zone, particularly some red zone third downs where we weren’t able to convert and had to settle for field goals,” Johnson said. “It would be nice to finish those drives off.

 “There is still some stuff we’ve got to continue to clean up as an entire offense, but a good start to the season, for sure.”

 The plan is to build on it, Mullen said.

 “I certainly hope we continue to improve offensively. We didn’t come out to peak in week one. I expect the offense to get better.”

Saturday

Who: South Carolina (0-1) vs. No. 3 Florida (1-0)

When: 12 p.m.

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

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, 98.1-FM, AM-850