Gainesville, FL –-With Tennessee in the rearview, it is time for Dan Mullen and the Gators to shift their focus to Mississippi State. Coach Mullen spoke briefly about the win on Rocky Top, preparations for Miss State, and his experiences in Starkville.
Mullen’s first meeting with Tennessee as the Gators head coach resulted in six takeaways and the most points ever scored by Florida at Neyland Stadium. In true Mullen fashion, he offered light praise while still pointing to the need for improvement.
“Great win for us last week against Tennessee. Obviously, it’s a big rivalry game. To go on the road, we made a lot of big plays. A lot of good things happened during the course of the game but this week, you move on. You gotta fix those things. We have to get better. You know, we played a little bit more physical but we still have to get a lot more physical.”
Mullen and his team enjoyed rolling Tennessee this weekend but his experience tells him that it’s time to get back to work. The SEC is a crucible and demands relentless effort.
“One of the things I’ve learned being a head coach in this league for quite a while is, it usually works out this way. If you go on the road and play a big rivalry game, a physical game and you get a big win, you get home, you come in Sunday and you’re stuck playing somebody even better the next week. That’s your reward, with the depth and talent in this league.”
It isn’t often that a coach leaves a program for another, only to play his former team in his first year with his new team. This is exactly the situation that Mullen finds himself in. He will travel to Starkville this weekend and take on the team and program that he has built over the past nine years.
With that in mind, this will be an emotional game for many Bulldogs who feel scorned by Mullen’s departure. When asked about the media focus on him leading up to Saturday, he shrugged it off saying, “That’s not hard for me. I guess it takes the pressure off of everybody else. Our guys can focus on the opponent and beating an excellent team.”
Mullen’s impact on the Mississippi State program will be felt for years and most of the players he will face on Saturday are his players operating according to his culture and standard. “You’re playing one of the best defensive lines in the country. One of the deepest, most veteran teams out there.” Mullen said of his former team.
“He brings so many different things to the table. He’s a veteran guy, he’s hard to shake, and he’s played a lot of football games. He’s got a huge arm.”
-Florida head coach Dan Mullen on MSU QB Nick Fitzgerald
Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, will also present an interesting challenge for the Gators. When asked about what he brings to the table, Mullen replied,
“He brings so many different things to the table. He’s a veteran guy, he’s hard to shake, and he’s played a lot of football games. He’s got a huge arm. I mean, he can make all the different throws. Throw it underneath, go through progressions, and stand in the pocket and make reads. I mean, he can throw it 70 yards in the air and he can do that from the pocket or on the run.”
He added, “He’s big, he’s physical, and he’s extremely fast.” to the traits that make Fitzgerald such a valuable weapon. Fortunately, Mullen can use his familiarity in preparing for their cross division opponent.
After one of the better performances by Florida’s offensive line, Saturday, Mullen was asked about their progress.
“I think we were better. It’s gotta be now, consistent.” Mullen said. “Now we gotta see that where that’s just the norm. That’s the baseline of what we do and what you see every snap.”
Other questions revolved around some of the differences that are involved in living in Starkville. Mullen said that he basically was either at work or at home but that from his wife Megan’s perspective, there was a lot more online shopping.