Gators notebook: Mullen credits fan turnout at Swamp

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida Gators defensive lineman Zachary Carter (6) gives high-fives to fans after the Florida Gators defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls 35-14 Saturday night, September 4, 2021 in Gainesville, FL. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2021

With minutes still remaining until the 7:30 p.m. kickoff, the stands at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium were already filling up — even the student section was a far cry from recent seasons, where the crowd would trickle in throughout the first quarter. 

The return of Florida football was certainly a well-attended event, and UF coach Dan Mullen noticed, saying the crowd’s energy was the highlight of Saturday night.

“The best part of the night was the crowd, that was the absolute best part of the night was seeing all the Gator fans and the energy and the electricity in the stadium again, and you realize how much you miss that,” Mullen said. “And just that feeling of that energy of having all the Gator fans in there cheering and that noise in the stadium. That was awesome, that was definitely the best part of the night, was all the Gator fans cheering us on." 

Ultimately, the figures confirmed UF’s season-opening 35-14 win over FAU wasn’t an event to miss, as Florida listed 86,840 as the official attendance. 

Chatfield not finished at UF

After redshirt junior Andrew Chatfield entered his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal last week, the logical assumption was Chatfield’s tenure with the Gators had come to an end. 

But when the Gators took the field prior to kickoff for the season-opener against Florida Atlantic, Chatfield was present and dressed out, indicating his availability for the contest with the Owls. 

A former four-star prospect out of Plantation, Florida, Chatfield played in all 12 games in 2020, recording 13 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 4.0 tackles for loss, and the expectation this season was he would continue to see minutes, despite UF’s crowded defensive line room. 

Following a brief interruption, the plan for Chatfield to contribute along the defensive line appears to be back on track.

But four DL sit out

Chatfield may be available for UF’s season-opener — as will graduate transfer Tyrone Truesdell — but several other Florida defensive linemen are unavailable for the contest. 

When the Gators took the field for pre-game warm-ups, defensive linemen Christopher Thomas, Lamar Goods, Jalen Lee and Jaelin Humphries were not dressed out. Lee’s unavailability wasn’t much of a surprise, considering he was listed as “questionable” by head coach Dan Mullen in his comments to the media Monday. 

As for Thomas, Humphries and Goods, the reason for their absence is unknown. 

Neither Goods, a redshirt freshman, nor Thomas, a true freshman, have seen the field at UF while Humphries, a redshirt sophomore, has played in just one game in each of the past two seasons. 

The Gators were also without David Reese and Tyreak Sapp on the defensive side of the ball. 

Despite the absence of several bodies along the front-seven, Mullen felt the unit was impressive as a collective against the Owls. 

“I thought we got after the quarterback,” Mullen said. “I thought they (FAU) did a good job getting the ball out pretty quick early, and, you know, a lot of times when they got the drop-back pass we got a bunch of pressure, got some sacks.”

Meyer recognized in first half

Former Florida and current Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer made the short trip Saturday from Duval County for UF’s 21-point victory over Florida Atlantic University. 

The former Gators head coach, who won a pair of national championships at Florida, was recognized on the field in the first half along with another UF legend, Steve Spurrier. 

Meyer, along with his wife, Shelley, were later spotted enjoying the game from a champions club suite.