On the heels of Florida’s big win over LSU on Saturday, Dan Mullen hosted his weekly press conference on Monday. After giving a quick update on injuries, he discussed the Gators offense, coaching, and preparing for a game that many feel could be a letdown after three very emotional wins.
To lead off, there were no new injuries to report. Those who have been missing will continue to do so and those who have played are still expected to suit up on Saturday. The #14 Gators will be traveling to Nashville this weekend to play a mediocre Vanderbilt team but can’t take them lightly or prepare for anything less than the Gators standard of play.
With the game being against a potentially lesser opponent in a stadium that isn’t known for fostering a traditional SEC atmosphere and an 11 a.m. kickoff, Mullen was asked if he is concerned about Vanderbilt being a trap game.
“Eh, not in that way. I’m a believer in that if you don’t prepare the right way, you can’t expect to win the game. I don’t know that a trap game comes up as much as guys trying to catch their breath after continually improving. It becomes about mental toughness.”
Mullen has tried to lay the foundation for this week’s expectation and preparation with the team by impressing the idea of mental toughness and pushing themselves to go hard for one more week before the bye. Vanderbilt can give an unprepared team fits. Just ask Notre Dame, who barely survived their date with the Commodores.
“I’m a believer in that if you don’t prepare the right way, you can’t expect to win the game.”
-Dan Mullen, about how to avoid a let-down against an inferior opponent.
Despite head coach Derek Mason‘s attempts to get the fan base to buy in to the “Anchor Down” mentality, Vanderbilt Stadium has always been a bit different. The players won’t have an electric environment to get the juices flowing. They will need to be self motivating more often than not this weekend.
“It’s gonna be a different atmosphere than what we’ve seen. But it doesn’t have to affect our performance on the field in how we play and how we execute and how we practice all week. It’s not going to affect that and so, for our guys to have any thought except for, ‘How hard I can go on the next play’ would be us taking a step backwards as a team.”
From there, the focus shifted to a more internal view of things. With the defense playing as well as they have been, Mullen fielded several questions about the offense. First up was a query about what Mullen saw this week from the Gators offense.
“I love consistency with an offensive performance and I think we’re getting better at it.” He went on to discuss the areas that could have been better in their last performance, including some of his own miscues.
“It’s a fault of several things. In the opening drive last week, we go down, we hit an explosive play, we throw an interception on play two. I got conservative and the next three possessions, we seemed to be back to the wall and I got conservative. And that’s a real bad combination for the offense. You’re already backed way up near your own goal line and I got real conservative in my play calling and we go three and out, three and out, three and out.”
Bringing it back to the original point, Mullen stated, “It’s a lack of consistency on my part and the guys executing.”
As he mentioned the interception thrown by Feleipe Franks when the Gators were threatening to score, a follow up question about what he saw on that play was asked.
“It was bad protection, to start with. You know, I mean the second he put his foot in the ground he’s got someone hitting him in the chest. It starts with bad protection and then it goes to, I guess bad decision making in what he was trying to accomplish once he realized he was about to get hit and couldn’t put anything on the throw.”
He went on to explain that if Franks had thrown just a second sooner, he would have hit TE Moral Stephens for a touchdown. Instead, he attempted to throw it away through the back of the endzone and was unable to put anything on the throw when he took the hit resulting in the interception.
One of the areas that has needed the most improvement this season has been the offensive line. Following the game last week, Mullen gave them a “so-so” rating. Before last week’s meeting, LSU had played 42 consecutive games where their defense recorded a sack. That streak came to an abrupt halt on Saturday versus the Gators.
With that in mind, Mullen was asked if he had changed his rating after watching the game film. Here’s what he had to say on that.
“They were solid. Like I said, I still think it’s inconsistency. I think if you look at times, that our quarterback — I am happy. If you do look, a big number in the game was negative yardage plays. I think they had eleven. We had two. Which kind of shows we didn’t hurt ourselves. We didn’t have a lot of self inflicted mistakes. We did with penalties, which was disappointing. But self inflicted mistakes within the execution of plays. But I do think there were some results though, that could have been better. When you look at protection as Feleipe’s getting hit on the interception or there’s another pass where we had, I think, Tre[von] Grimes open and he’s trying to throw a slant to him. And he couldn’t even get his feet in the ground to get that ball out, throwing to him on the slant.”
Mullen has been pleased with the team’s buy in but has been open and honest about how far they still have to go. He holds exceptionally high standards for his team and it has been a lot of fun watching them get a little better each week. Look to see if they can keep up the intensity when they face Vanderbilt later this week.
Be sure to check back later in the week for the latest updates, news, and this week’s game preview coming Friday.