Mullen’s opener makes Gator fans smile

by Gary Shelton on September 2, 2018 · 0 comments

in College football, College Sports in Florida, Florida

Dan Mullen celebrates with daughter Breelyn./CARMEN MANDATO

Dan Mullen celebrates with daughter Breelyn./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 2 a.m.

Fans saw hope in Mullen's offense./CARMEN MANDATO

Fans saw hope in Mullen's offense./CARMEN MANDATO

Bigger tests await. Better opponents. Enemy stadiums. Bad calls and pesky turnovers, rough afternoons and tough opposing coaches. Harsh weather and disagreeable referees.

Eventually, the University of Florida will get to all of those.

For now, however, this will do. For now, the coach with the fresh start and the quarterback with the restart and the rest of Gator Nation that seems to have something to prove are off to a good start. Tomorrow's worries can wait until tomorrow.

For today, it's Florida 53, and some school called Charleston Southern 6.

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Franks threw five touchdown passes in the first half./CARMEN MANDATO

Franks threw five touchdown passes in the first half./CARMEN MANDATO

And right now, Gator fans are renewed.

The Gators welcomed new coach Dan Mullen back to town (he was the offensive coordinator on Urban Meyer's title teams) with an easy win. Mullen is already popular with the fanbase -- after Jim McElwain, who wouldn't be --  with his energy and down-to-earth approach.

And that's the thing. Florida fans want to believe in Mullen. They need to believe in him. It wasn't the win; Florida fans are used to winning their openers. Even coaches who wore out there welcomes quickly won their openers.

This was a promise of something better, something more explosive, something more efficient.

Adam Shuler celebrates a sack./CARMEN MANDATO

Adam Shuler celebrates a sack./CARMEN MANDATO

After this, he's bound to be even more popular.

Granted, beating  Charleston Southern isn't exactly like beating Alabama or Georgia, but no one wins a title on opening weekend. This was a tone-setter of a game, one of those games where the crispness of a team can hint of good things to come.

Well, mission accomplished. Feleipe Franks, a quarterback who frustrated fans a year ago, threw for five touchdowns. Eleven backs piled up 203 yards. Ten receivers amassed 241 yards. The defense allowed just three yards rushing. Charleston Southern got its first first down just before the half.

And, yeah, the Swamp felt like old times.

Tyree Cleveland caught a touchdown pass./CARMEN MANDATO

Tyree Cleveland caught a touchdown pass./CARMEN MANDATO

Granted, it was only an opening day win (the Gators have 29 of those in a row), but keep in mind that the Gators, as a team, had just 10 touchdown passes all of last season. By comparison, Franks' five seemed like a lot. Overall, Florida's offense has become more and more pedestrian; the hope is that Mullen can squeeze a little more production from them.

Dameon Pierce had 75 yards rushing for Florida./CARMEN MANDATO

Dameon Pierce had 75 yards rushing for Florida./CARMEN MANDATO

“It was a great win,” Mullen said. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ll get back to it on Monday and get ready for SEC play this week.

“You want to see huge improvement from week one to two. Let’s make some huge strides during preparation in everything we do.”

It wasn't hard to envision a Gators' offense that will be more efficient than last year's.

"We can only go up from here,” Franks said. “We've only scratched the surface.”

The Gators, a school who has had great offense, has struggled lately. Jim McElwain's three Florida offense were ranked 111, 116 and 109. Will Muschamp's four offenses were 105, 103, 113 and 93.

Not much gun, not much fun.

Florida's Rayshad Jackson had a sack for Gators./CARMEN MANDATO

Florida's Rayshad Jackson had a sack for Gators./CARMEN MANDATO

Franks did most of his damage in the first half, throwing all five of his touchdowns.

He is the first UF quarterback to throw for five or more touchdowns in a game since Chris Leak had six against South Carolina in 2004. Franks had only nine touchdown passes all of last season.

“I think (his play) was pretty good,” Mullen said. “There will be some things

Kyle Trask hit all three passes in the second half./CARMEN MANDATO

Kyle Trask hit all three passes in the second half./CARMEN MANDATO

on film that he missed. He also made some plays.

“His decision making, his communication, was pretty solid. I thought he made good decisions for the most part and made some plays. He had some good decisions in the running game as well. He looked rock solid.”

Florida opens SEC play next week against Kentucky. The Gators have won 31 straight games in the series.

Josh Hammond brings in a six-yard touchdown./CARMEN MANDATO

Josh Hammond brings in a six-yard touchdown./CARMEN MANDATO

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