Photo: Dan Mullen; Credit: Alex Shepherd
Samford's 52 points against the Florida Gators on Saturday were the most an FCS program has scored against an SEC team, ever. Florida even trailed by a score of 42-35 at halftime to the school it paid six figures to play.
By the end, Florida's offense was on a roll en route to 70 points and 717 total yards, while the Gators' defense held the Bulldogs to ten points in the second half, leading to a victory that ended a three-game losing streak for UF.
Social media and onlookers in general had determined that Gators' head coach Dan Mullen's job was as good as gone at the halfway mark. But then his team rallied to put together a much-needed triumph, and Mullen defended Florida's efforts following the win.
"They’re an offensive football team, they score points and have some good players," Mullen said of the opponent, asked if he believed the Gators played poorly in some ways. "So, I don’t think... calling a win disappointing is disrespectful to the game and our players. I really do."
Mullen offered Samford's offense plenty of credit for putting Florida in a first-half hole, propping up quarterback Liam Welch for his 400-yard, three-touchdown showing and his supporting cast of weapons for making big plays.
It's a tough sell for Florida faithful to buy considering the talent level of the opponent, especially considering the Gators' recent struggles which led to the firing of two assistant coaches this past Sunday. But Mullen was adamant in his belief that the Bulldogs were a threatening team, despite the subdivision that Samford hails from.
"You got to give them some credit. They’re a team that’s going to score points," Mullen stated. "They score a ton of points. They throw the ball all over the place, you know, within their style."
From Mullen's perspective, Florida's biggest issue was missing out on plays that the team is capable of making. He also pointed to Florida's 12 penalties compared to Samford's three, acknowledging that some judgment calls did not go in the Gators' favor.
"If there’s a disappointment, it’s some guys had [an] opportunity to make plays we didn’t make," Mullen explained. "A couple of missed tackles, a couple of opportunities for sacks that we didn’t make. We ended up with penalties, pass interference, you know penalties we got to get that cleaned up, right? You look, they had three, we had 12. A lot of them were like the judgment penalties, but they didn’t go our way.
"The guys [have] got to be in position to go make plays, so that part is disappointing. But I think there’s guys going to look at it and hopefully they start to build some confidence and say, 'Hey I’m right there, all I got to do is go make a play. I have to finish it and have the confidence to go make that play.'”
Mullen was encouraged, however, by the Gators' offensive performance, and rightfully so.
Quarterback Emory Jones cemented himself in UF's record books with the most yardage in a single game in school history with 550, surpassing the record formerly held by Tim Tebow. Jones threw for six touchdowns and rushed for a seventh, while Dameon Pierce added two rushing scores and Malik Davis posted one as well.
"I’m an offensive guy so I love scoring points. Obviously I don't love giving up points, but love scoring points," Mullen claimed. "Offensively, we needed guys to step up and guys to execute, and I think we did that today ... it ended up being a little shootout back and forth, and you know, our offense kept responding and making plays.”
A win was necessary for Mullen and his job security against Samford - the losing streak needed to come to an end, and the last thing Mullen could afford was a loss to an inferior school from an inferior division of college football. Such a result would have put writing on the wall in bold that his time at UF was nearing its conclusion.
The outcome was way close than it should have been or was predicted to be, but Mullen got exactly what he needed: A win. And he hopes that pulling off the victory can establish some confidence and momentum for his team as they approach the final two games of the 2021 season.
“I’m really proud of our guys," Mullen said. "[It's] been rough. Good to go in there and see them be able to celebrate to go get a win."
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