Sports Illustrated assesses Dan Mullen

It wasn’t that long ago that coach Dan Mullen’s tenure seemed like everything Gators fans wanted. The team were just six points away from a college football playoff appearance last season, and after giving Alabama everything they could manage in Week 3, it looked like this could finally be the team to break through.

Then, Saturday night arrived. The Gators lost to Kentucky at Lexington for the first time since 1986, and Mullen is now 2-2 to a Wildcats team that UF’s previous five coaches have never lost to.

While Florida are clearly an improved and more competitive team than previous coaches Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain, it is becoming increasingly clear that something needs to change if Mullen’s team is to make this leap forward.

In his latest column, Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde looked at several coaches who seem to have lost some of their shine. Here’s what he had to say about Mullen.

After a two-point loss to Alabama on Sept. 18, Mullen was praised for his ability to keep the Gators at the forefront of the SEC after significant staff losses from 2020. He was 31-10. in Florida, and some thought Mullen’s side could beat Georgia and retain the SEC East title.

Now: In 2018, Mullen became Florida’s first coach since the mid-80s to lose to Kentucky, and then he did so again on Saturday. While the Wildcats are 5-0, that didn’t suit Gators fans accustomed to making their way with Big Blue. The chances of repeating as the SEC East champion are almost gone with this loss.

The big deal: Mullen has turned conservative offensively with this team, running the ball 59 percent of the time and not trusting his quarterbacks in the passing game. When he ate up his three timeouts on a shy offensive possession to end the first half against Kentucky clinging to a 10-7 lead, Florida fans who remember Steve Spurrier were apoplectic. Fifteen penalties and a blocked basket that was returned for a touchdown were also not well received.

What Will Bring Back Love: Putting 50 on Vanderbilt on Saturday will help. Next come crucial games at LSU and Jacksonville against Georgia, followed by what should be four more wins. Mullen will be fine once the Kentucky outrage wears off.

Mullen’s job security is certainly not significantly affected by the loss in the UK, although it is arguably the worst he has taken as a head coach. But Forde is right that something needs to change. Mullen, who is known to take risks, has been very conservative in his game calls this season, and that has been particularly problematic against Kentucky.

The Gators are great at running football, but the Wildcats have found a way to slow down the rushed attack, and whether the issue is a lack of confidence in quarterback Emory Jones or something else, Florida will need to play a lot better in the game. the last straight line. if he wants to have a chance to save this season.

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