Florida notebook: Gators enjoy celebrating any win regardless of opponent

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida coach Dan Mullen looks at the crowd before the Gators run onto the field to start the game Saturday against Samford at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Having rallied from a double-digit deficit to secure the team’s first win at home in more than six weeks, the Florida football team did something nearly every team does in the immediate aftermath of a victory: they celebrated. 

Dan Mullen was front and center in the locker room after the 70-52 win over Samford University, and the Florida head coach was caught on camera displaying his dance capabilities amid a throng of Gators.

“He was killing it,” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Zachary Carter. 

But there were many outside the program who didn’t appreciate the celebratory display after it made its way to social media, considering how UF’s once-promising season has unfolded, and they didn’t hold back from criticizing Mullen and the Gators for living in the moment.

Florida Gators football & sports news | Gators Sports

As Florida prepares to secure its first SEC road victory of the season, Mullen was asked about the optics of the celebration, and he adamantly defended the revelry. 

“I've never won a game that wasn't worth celebrating, and I've never celebrated a loss. I've never celebrated what you guys call moral victories. I've never celebrated a moral victory,” Mullen said. “I've never danced or celebrated or cheered a loss, but I will never not celebrate a victory and enjoy a victory, OK?” 

If the Gators pick up a second-consecutive win Saturday when they take on the Tigers in Columbia, Missouri, expect a festive locker room regardless of the outcome, Mullen said. 

“I’ll give you this one: If we win 3-2 this week, we'll be dancing in that locker room. OK? We will be dancing in that locker room, and if we win 70-52 we'll be dancing in that locker room and celebrating. We work way too hard. The players work way too hard. The game of football is something special and I could maybe understand the people that aren't competitors or have never played football would look at things possibly a certain way. But anybody that's ever played, you're never not going to celebrate a victory." 

Carter echoed Mullen’s sentiment, saying too much work goes into the pre-game preparation for the program to take a positive outcome for granted. Outsiders can have their opinions, and they’re free to vocalize them, be it in private or via social media. Don’t expect external critiques to dictate what the team does, however. 

“Well, I just know that a lot of people on the outside, they don’t really understand what goes into this. Like, yeah, they see the result on Saturday. They don’t see what goes into it throughout the week, throughout the offseason,” Carter said. “Man, we’re working hard like every day to try to win these games. So, when we win, of course we’re going to be happy and celebrate, especially the way this season has been going for us. It just felt good to get back in the win column. So, we’re just focused on our locker room. We don’t listen to the outside noise; we just focus on what we have going on.” 

Emory Jones battling through thumb sprain

Emory Jones had a record-breaking performance Saturday, accruing 550 total yards with seven touchdowns, and his play seems even more impressive considering he’s dealing with an ailment to his throwing hand. 

Jones has been sporting a small bandage on his right hand and over his thumb as he battles through a sprain. 

“I sprained some things in my thumb. I’m getting a lot of treatment on it,” Jones said. “I feel pretty good right now.”

Asked if it was bothering him against the Bulldogs, Jones credited the medical staff for helping him manage the injury to a point where it wouldn’t hinder his performance. 

“I was fine. Like I said, I got a lot of treatment, I was feeling pretty good,” he said. “It’s feeling better day by day. I’m just going to keep doing everything I’m doing and just getting treatment, staying here late, keep trying to get better.”

Mullen: No issue with Drinkwitz after 2020 shouting

With last season’s 41-17 win over Missouri, the Gators improved to 2-1 against the Tigers under Mullen, though the outcome is hardly the most memorable moment of the 2020 contest. 

More:Missouri Scouting Report

That honor would belong to the pre-halftime dust-up between the two teams after Mullen, who already was rather unhappy with some of the officiating, headed for midfield with several players in tow after quarterback Kyle Trask took a questionable hit. Mullen was restrained by strength and conditioning coordinator Nick Savage, but not before the two teams began pushing and shoving at midfield. In the year since that contest, Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz has commented about the contest, including at SEC Media Days in July when he was asked about the 2021 iteration of the series. 

“I’m praying for snow,” Drinkwitz said at the time. “Dan (Mullen) is going to complain about everything anyway.”

Mullen was reminded of Drinkwitz’s barb at his Monday news conference, and he cleared up the notion there was any lingering animosity between the two head coaches, saying he’s known the second-year Tigers’ coach for too long for there to be any legitimate bad blood. 

“He’s got some personality. He has some funny little one-liner stuff like that, I’ve known him since — I think the first time I met him was when he was a student-assistant for Gus Malzahn when he was coaching in high school, I was there recruiting,” Mullen said. “I got a lot of respect for him. Good guy, and I think there’s — I didn’t come out with any needling of him, but I think if I did they would know it’s all in good fun.” 

Blades’ status uncertain

According to Swamp247’s Thomas Goldkamp, UF graduate transfer Elijah Blades withdrew his name from the NCAA’s transfer portal on Nov. 10, just over a month after he was “dismissed” from the Gators’ program. Mullen said he’s been attempting to help Blades find his next destination, though it doesn’t sound as if he’ll return to the Florida program

“I don’t think so. I haven’t spoken to him recently about that. I spoke to him, I spoke to his dad,” Mullen said. “I was trying to help him out every way possible for the future. So I haven’t gotten to that part of it or any of that yet.” 

Florida-FSU a noon kickoff

With both Florida and Florida State still seeking bowl eligibility, the Gators’ annual match-up with the ‘Noles will kick off at 12 p.m. ET Nov;. 27 on ESPN.