In what can only be described as indescribable, the Gators completely imploded to lose to a mediocre Kentucky team 20-13 on the road, effectively ending their hopes for accomplishing anything of real note in 2021.
Where to begin? Let’s start with the comedy of errors – penalties – including 9 false-starts by the O-line. Dan Mullen and John Hevesy completely crapped the bed by not implementing a silent count, even at halftime, and gutting almost every potential scoring drive. The special teams allowed an unconscionable blocked FG to be returned for a TD, causing a 10-point swing and forcing the offense to play from behind the rest of the night. Mullen doubled down on his irresponsible oversight of the snap count, calling a game that would make vanilla seem like rainbow with sprinkles compared to the dreck he delivered. His completely risk-averse mentality once again cost a victory, as he continues to underutilize athletic WRs like Jacob Copeland, Xavier Henderson, and Justin Shorter. Why he refuses to try a fade route in the red zone is beyond comprehension, and he totally neglects their size and the physical mismatches these guys have most weeks. Emory Jones was……well……not good. He continued to miss open receivers, and seemingly can’t find wide open guys 20+ yards downfield. It’s his 4th year in Mullen’s system, so is it the player and/or the coach? It’s certainly not winning SEC football. Anothiny Richardson again saw minimal snaps, and didn’t play enough to affect the outcome in any meaningful way. Mullen again failed at clock management, effectively folding the tents with over 2 minutes left in the first half with plenty of time to try for more points. Finally, the playcalling in the 4th quarter when Florida got inside Kentucky’s 10-yard line not once, but twice, was criminal. No 50/50 or jump balls to the WRs, too many QB runs, and no aggressiveness. I also understand rotating 3 very good RBs, but Dameon Pierce had a hot hand and was hammering the Wildcat defense……but never seems to be on the field in those circumstances.
The defense, for once, held up, allowing only 224 yards, 87 through the air. Yes, they allowed UK’s first score with some shoddy tackling on a WR screen, but were solid almost the entire game. The offense did them no favors,keeping the score close instead of taking charge early and allowing the defense to really punish a lousy opposing offense. Kentucky is always a power running team first, so Florida held up pretty well. They also miraculously held the Wildcats to 1-9 combined 3rd- and 4th-down conversions, helping the Gator offense to possess the ball over 36 minutes……which they did nothing with.
Talk about dispiriting. That’s a 3-5 record for Mullen in his last 8 games, interspersing 2 well-played games against Alabama with some historically bad clunkers. Gator Nation won’t soon forget the way 2020 ended with the inexplicable home loss to a terrible LSU team, then totally mailing it in against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. His arrogance again showed itself in his post-game and Monday pressers, glossing over terrible coaching by talking about meaningless statistics and lamely taking some responsibility for some of the penalties. Some of this stuff is beginning to look more and more like a trend, not an anomaly. The worst part is that Mullen shows no sign of changing……anything.
Next up for Florida is Homecoming Week, with a rancid Vanderbilt team coming in for a beatdown. This will be an easy preview for me – Vandy is terrible, and normally would not stay within 40-50 points of the Gators. This is a chance for Mullen and the staff to play the younger guys a lot – and that includes Richardson. He needs the reps in live action, and more than the usual 6-8 snaps. Time to start seeing if he can improve and develop his game. There are a lot of guys dinged up after 5 weeks, and this is an opportunity to give them some rest before traveling to LSU. The Commodores really are bereft of talent – I can’t understand why Clark Lea would leave his DC position at Notre Dame to waste a few years losing in Nashville. The Commodores music group has had more hits than this football team’s defense. Florida is favored by 37 points, but I could see them not covering that spread because of the hangover effect from the cluster in Lexington, along with playing a lot of guys and not being as cohesive. Just stay healthy, win by 4 or 5 TDs, and get ready for LSU.
This is a dangerous time for Mullen. Along with another bad loss, it’s going to be really interesting to see if the staff starts to lose control of some of the locker room – especially the Draft-eligible guys that may start to mail it in to try and save their health. There is practically nothing of substance to play for now except trying to get into another consolation New Year’s Six bowl game, and possibly ruining Georgia’s run at a perfect season. Recruiting may have taken a hit with a couple of 5* players that had Florida in the lead now leaning elsewhere, and Gator Nation is starting to wonder if this is the best it can expect from Mullen – 8 to 10 wins, maybe the occasional upset, and an infrequent shot at getting to Atlanta. Mullen’s seat is starting to get really warm, and nothing this week will change that.
Prediction: Florida 48 Vanderbilt 10