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The Back Nine: After comments about packing Swamp, Mullen moving on to LSU

Pat Dooley
Gator Sports
It's on to LSU for Florida coach Dan Mullen.

The Back Nine comes at you after a strange weekend and that is putting it mildly. The emails I received were, well, different than usual after a Florida loss.

10. Obviously, Dan Mullen's comments after Saturday's loss to Texas A&M elicited two kinds of reactions — those who vehemently agreed and those who totally disagreed. There was nobody who sent me an email or Tweeted something out who could even see the fence let alone be on it. On Monday, Mullen didn't walk back his postgame comments about wanting to see 90,000 fans in The Swamp, but he didn't walk them forward either. Instead, he went kind of full Belichick on us. "I'm just worried about beating LSU," he said when I asked if he has spoken to Florida AD Scott Stricklin. Later, he said, "I haven’t talked to people because I’ve been really focused on trying to beat LSU, but whatever our government officials all say, what everybody does for the game, what we need to do is however many people they allow into the stadium, we need to work as hard as we can on the Gator fans to create the best game-day atmosphere that we can.” Yep. That's what A&M did. The fans were loud. The crowd was officially listed at 24,709 but people who were there said there were more like 35K. That's where we are in this world, where officials are under-reporting attendance.  

11. This was a stat that I used in my Sunday Blog — Florida has recorded only six three-and-outs this season. I thought that was really bad until I found out Alabama only has three. Three? What in the world happened to great defense in this league? OK, except Georgia and everyone who has now figured out how to play Mike Leach's Air Raid (keep everything in front of you). Florida has the 72nd ranked defense in the country right now, but wait, it gets worse. There are only 76 teams playing. Soak that in for a minute and then this — LSU is 71st and Alabama 65th. Five of the bottom six Power 5 defenses are from the SEC. The SEC set a record Saturday for most points ever. And in three weeks, the league has seen 11,642 passing yards. As the girl shrieks when the bodies start to come out of graves in Poltergeist, "WHAT'S HAPPENING!??!"

12. So you want to now why? There are a million possible reasons, but at some point they are just excuses. We are three games into the season and I certainly get it that playing a 10-game SEC season is rough on players and coaches who didn't have a spring or a normal preseason camp. So why hasn't it been tough on the guys on the other side of the ball? I'll give you the top five reasons in a minute, but isn't this something we should all be enjoying, this explosion of offense in a conference that has 3-2 and 9-6 games? Alabama-Mississippi was about as big a shock to the system as I've seen in a long time, but you could not take your eyes off it. 

13. So let me try this:

Reason No. 1 — The obvious lack of hitting in practice and the missed drills of spring. Great quote from Nick Saban, who had to be pulling out his hair watching that game Saturday night. "It's easier for an offense to practice against air than it is for a defense to practice against air," he said. 

No. 2 — And maybe this is just me, but it's almost like they have quit calling holding on the offense and any offense without fear of holding calls is going to be a smooth operation. 

No. 3 — I think guys are playing tentatively and I especially think it is true with the Florida defense. Perhaps it is because nobody wants to miss time for a targeting call with the season shortened. I don't know.

No. 4 — But that still doesn't explain how or why nobody seems to cover the back out in the flat anymore or even a wide receiver who just wanders out there.

No. 5 — Players in high school are gravitating more to the offensive side of the ball than ever before.

I could go on, but I have a feeling we're going to see a lot more of this.

14. There were a lot of people in the media and on message boards who really believed that Florida was closing the gap in recruiting with Georgia. If you watched those two games on Saturday back to back you could not possibly feel that is the case. Many of Florida's defensive problems are personnel related. Some players haven't matured physically yet and some players continue to struggle to do what they are told in the scheme. And some players can't get or stay on the field. Mullen has upgraded Florida's recruiting, but it's not in Georgia's neighborhood yet. Instead, Georgia has pulled even with Alabama and we'll see how that all plays out Saturday night.

15. I thought about writing a parody song of "Baby Got Back" entitled "Baby Not Back" but that might have been too cruel for the teams who were planning on returning to national relevance Saturday. Tennessee finally played a real team and was manhandled in the second half by Georgia. Miami finally played a real team and was not competitive. You are not back until you win a series of games that lead to — at a minimum — a conference championship. Looking good against bad teams does not mean you are back. There are levels in college football and it's pretty clear that Tennessee and Miami, while better, are not even at the second level yet.

16. It was not a good Sunday in the NFL, because when there is an injury that ESPN chooses to pixilate on its highlights, that's pretty bad. We all hope Dak Prescott will be able to come back one day (Alex Smith offered hope Sunday), even those of us who root against the Cowboys. It was also sad to see our old friend Dan Quinn fired, although it felt like a miracle it didn't come sooner. I will say that people who are clamoring for him to come back to Florida should stop to realize that Florida has a defensive coordinator who is struggling this season, but had the seventh best defense in the country last year. It was kind of like when Billy Donovan left OKC and there were people on Twitter who wanted him to come back even thought Florida has a coach. Silly.  

17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Peter Burns of the SEC Network, who makes a salient point here — "Ya'll are right ... the SEC is exactly like the Big 12 now. One slight difference ... The SEC has 10 titles since 2005 The Big 12 has 0." And I wouldn't expect the Big 12 to get one this year if all of its eggs are in the Oklahoma State basket.

18. So after a full Saturday of working and watching football (it's my job, I swear!) and a full day of playing golf (27 miserable holes in rain and then heat), I went to bed before the first game of the ALCS and the NBA Finals. So congrats to the Lakers and I'll leave it at that. Also, heaven filled its starting rotation and began to work on the infield when Joe Morgan passed away Sunday. If you never pretended you were Joe Morgan with the chicken-wing flap of a batting stance, well, you never played baseball in the 1970s. Anyway, as 2020 continues to take away our heroes, here you go:

• "Victory" by The Avett Brothers. 

* "I Love Us" by The Regrettes.

* "Fire For You" by Cannons.

* And instead of a normal oldie, I'm doing with a pair of Van Halen songs, one with each lead singer. There was a time in my life when I would have loved to have traded lives with Eddie Van Halen because he was a brilliant comet streaking through the night. This is a loss that takes you awhile to get over.

So ...

"Hot For Teacher" mainly because I love that opening riff.

And "Right Now." 

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.