When you’re the Florida Gators, things rarely get easier from one week to the next. Win an emotional top ten matchup and you’re rewarded with another one… on the road. Spirits are high in Gainesville, but the Gators know that there’s no time to dwell on last week’s win if they want to leave Baton Rouge with their undefeated record intact. And so it’s business as usual for Dan Mullen and the Gators, and that means Mullen met with the media, as usual, on Monday.
After going down with a minor sprain of his MCL, Kyle Trask appears primed and ready to once again lead the Gators offense. Dameon Pierce also left Saturday’s game against Auburn after taking a helmet-to-helmet collision on his first and only carry of the game. He will be a day-to-day designation as we head into preparations for LSU.
Jabari Zuniga has missed several weeks with an ankle sprain and should be nearly 100% for Saturday nights showdown with LSU. He was held out as a precaution versus Auburn. This is great news for one of the nation’s top defenses as they prepare to take on the number one scoring offense in the country.
The Swamp was rocking on Saturday afternoon and the crowd clearly affected Bo Nix and the Tigers. Saturday night, Kyle Trask will face the hostile side of that environment when he enters Death Valley for an 8 p.m. kickoff between a pair of top ten schools. Dan was asked how he prepares an inexperienced quarterback for such a setting.
“We’ll have to see on Saturday night, how he handles it,” Mullen replied. “I mean we practice that way. When we’re at practice, we practice with crowd noise. We practice with that playing in road games. So it’s not like he’s coming out to practice for the first time having to go practice for this scenario. You know? I mean, he had to come in for a tough situation against Kentucky on the road. I mean, especially coming in and we’re behind and they had that place sold out. So it’s not like his first time ever having to step on the field in a tough environment.”
The Gators defense made a statement last Saturday. They held Auburn to a little less than half of their season average in several offensive categories. The Tigers converted just 2 of 11 third downs and went three and out six times against a Gators defense that committed no penalties in the game.
Against LSU, the Gators will need to produce another stellar performance. With the emergence of Joe Burrow as a Heisman contender, Florida’s secondary will be tasked with shutting down his receiving corps, while the defensive front applies copious amounts of pressure to the Tigers star quarterback. But what if the defense isn’t able to slow Burrow and company? I believe they can, but for the sake of argument, can the Gators offense keep up in a shootout? Dan Mullen was quick to respond saying, “We’ve got some good players, too.”
Many have questioned why Mullen never gave Trask the chance to start over Franks before his injury. The logical and accurate response to that is that there is almost no difference in their production. Both quarterbacks are very talented and display different skill sets. While Trask has a slightly quicker release, he doesn’t possess the running ability that Franks did. However, Trask has stepped into the starting role and performed quite well in the process.
When asked what he’s seen of Trask that maybe wasn’t as evident on the practice field, Mullen was ready.
“How he’s going to perform when he gets on the field,” Mullen began. “You know? I love guys that… you know, I hate the word, ‘gamer.’ ‘Hey, I’m a gamer. It’s gonna be different when I get out on the field.’ I wanna see it every day at practice. I want to see you show me over and over that you can do it. But when the lights come on, it is different. It is, to me, how you respond in those situations. And the guy I saw is a good decision maker. You know? A smart decision maker with the ball. Accurate passing, you know, getting the ball out, getting us into the right checks, being able to hang in the pocket and make big throws that you see in practice, you don’t know always how that’s going to translate when now, they can hit you. You know? And now the speed of it picks up and I’ve seen him really continue to do what we expected him to do and what he could do.”
The Gators opened as a 13 point underdog for Saturday’s game. It is the largest line that Mullen has ever faced in six years – including his time as offensive coordinator – at Florida. When asked if he would use that as a motivational tool, Mullen responded with jovial sarcasm.
“Do we get those points before the game starts?” Mullen quipped. “No, well then it doesn’t really have much use for us. If they gave us the points before the game starts, then I would definitely use them. I mean, if we walked in and it said Florida 14, LSU 0, then I would definitely use that. The rest of it’s irrelevant.”
Florida began preparations for LSU on Monday afternoon. Be sure to follow along with us at Chomp Talk for all of the latest news and info throughout the week, including my preview and staff picks of the top ten showdown between the Gators and LSU.