Dan Mullen sticking with Emory Jones — and his own narrative of Gators
The story of Florida’s 2021 season started out promising, but after the last few chapters, there may not be a happy ending for Gators coach Dan Mullen.
He’s on the hot seat heading into the final SEC matchup at Missouri, needing a victory Saturday to qualify for a bowl and avoid going winless on the road in conference play. Can Mullen change the narrative about this season — and his program — during the next two games?
“I don’t write the narrative,” Mullen responded Monday at his weekly news conference.
Mullen was then asked what the narrative should be after his team gave up 52 points to Samford.
“The narrative is we won. We won on Saturday. We scored 70 points. It depends on what you want to look at as your narrative,” Mullen said. “We had every right to pack it in. We’re losing, and then came back and dominated the second half of the game. We had a young guy set the all-time record in the history of Florida football. I don’t know that there’s a bigger narrative. That’s got to be a bigger narrative since … when? Tim Tebow. That’s a pretty big thing.”
UF quarterback Emory Jones set the single-game school record for total yards (550) against the Bulldogs, breaking Tebow’s mark of 533 yards against Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. However, after Mullen mentioned the record Monday, a reporter blurted out that Jones was playing an FCS team.
“That’s your narrative. That’s yours,” Mullen said. “My narrative as a coach is we won a football game, we had a guy set an all-time school record, had our backs against the wall, came out, battled and outscored a team 42-10 in the second half. The narrative’s your narrative.
“Our narrative is we won the game. I was with the team (Monday) morning, the guys are fired up. We celebrated, had a great time in the locker room. We got a great week of practice ahead of us and guys are excited to play football again. That’s my narrative. You can do whatever you want to do. I can’t control your narrative.”
Jones changed the narrative on his status as a starter following his seven-touchdown performance against Samford, which tied the school record. He appears to have regained control of his job after losing it to Anthony Richardson before the bye week.
Mullen said he’s sticking with Jones as his quarterback and plans to have packages for Richardson, who is “back to 100-percent healthy” again.
“I think for him to have that type of a game, we needed him to. You kind of got out into a shootout,” Mullen said of Jones. “It was so huge for Emory to just sit up there and consistently perform time after time after time. … I mean, that was huge and it kept us going. And I think, you know, I got on our defense. You look, we hadn't created a turnover.
“But I think Emory, instead of saying, ‘Hey defense, you need to pick it up.’ Don't worry about that. ‘I’m going to go execute at a high level, we’re gonna go score points on offense, and that will encourage and elevate the level of play in the defense eventually.’ You know? And I think there is a lot to that within the team. Stop worrying about somebody else doing something, and you just go perform and make plays. And when you do that, you will elevate everybody around you.”
Mullen said a comeback like the Gators had last Saturday doesn’t happen without good leadership, and not just coming from the coaches. It’s on the players to hold themselves accountable, and Jones felt he and his teammates did before and during halftime.
“We were down 42-28,” Jones said. “All the things we’ve been through this season, it showed that we all care about each other. That we still have fight. We’ll go to war with each other every time. That’s what we did and that’s what it showed.”
Who: Florida (5-5, 2-5 SEC) vs. Missouri (5-5, 2-4)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850