Gators finish Mullen’s big year with Peach Bowl victory

by Gary Shelton on December 30, 2018 · 2 comments

in general

Jordan Scarlett had one of four runs of more than 39 yards./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 2 a.m.

Say this for Dan Mullen. The guy makes a nice first impression.

Mullen, the Florida coach, wrapped up a successful first season with the Gators Saturday as he led his team to a 41-15 rout of seventh-ranked Michigan in the Peach Bowl.

It was a fine finish for the Gators, and for Mullen. The Gators finished 10-3 and are certain to wind up in the Top 10. They re-established the program as the one to beat in the state. They made people forget about the disappointing finish to the Jim McElwain era and last season's four-win season.

Yeah, not bad for year's work.

Scarlett dives for additional yardage./CARMEN MANDATO

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Franks dives into the end zone for a Gators' touchdown./CARMEN MANDATO

The Gators ran away from Michigan at the end, scoring 35 of the game's final 40 points. Quarterback Feleipe Franks, benched and booed at various points of the season, threw for 173 yards and ran for 74 on their way.

“In Year 1, to come here and know where we were this time a year ago and where we

Perine scores on a 53-yard run./CARMEN MANDATO

are today, it’s special to me,” Mullen said. “These guys didn’t have to buy in. They didn’t have to believe. They didn’t have to buy in. I told them, I didn’t recruit you and you didn’t come here to play for me. But you did come here to be a Gator and there’s a certain standard that’s expected if you’re going to do that. So, it’s special that this team bought in and believed that and will finish as a top-10 team.”

The Gators ran well against a normally sturdy Michigan defense, with four players rushing for more than 36 yards. LaMical Perine gained 53 of his 76 yards on one

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson had two interceptions./CARMEN MANDATO

touchdown run.

Michigan gained only 77 yards rushing on 30 carries, a 2.6-yard average.

C'Yontae Lewis said the team felt for Franks.

"The way he’s grown up, become accountable, the time he puts in, the way he practices, the way he communicates," Lewis said. "It’s a credit to Coach Mullen but mostly I’m proud of (Franks). He’s been through so much, and this day is special for him, it’s special for the program.”

Said Franks: “The biggest thing he helped me do, I would say, is just gain my confidence back. Last year I don’t think my confidence could have got any lower.”

Florida safety Amari Burney sacks Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson./CARMEN MANDATO

Franks said the difference started with Mullen.

"Just the mentality that coach Mullen brings to our team, a lot of people don’t think that’s something that can change somebody’s play, and I think that’s totally a misconception is that mentality can change completely how you play,” Franks said. “Like coach Mullen always says, it’s one of my favorite quotes he always says, ‘Being a champion is not a sometimes thing, it’s a way of life,’ and it’s something he’s very true about.

Defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson intercepted two passes and returned one of them 53 yards.

Dan Mullen had a fine debut season./CARMEN MANDATO


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