Mullen
Florida head coach Dan Mullen waves to fans as he leaves the field after defeating Kentucky in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Mullen, Gators shifting to Tennessee

One game at a time. Put players in positions to succeed. Improve each week. These are the mantras of Gators’ head football coach Dan Mullen. Naturally, it is no surprise he is shifting his focus to Tennessee (2-5) after the Gators’ (7-1) 34-10 victory over Kentucky.

Only satisfied with the win

Mullen said his Gators “hit none of [their] offensive goals.” The one thing they can enjoy from this game is the win, perhaps nothing more on the offensive side. It is easy to be mesmerized by Kyle Trask’s 256 yards and three touchdowns, Kyle Pitts’s five catches for 99 yards and three scores and the special teams perfection on Kadarius Toney’s punt return for a touchdown. However, it should not be forgotten that Florida trailed 10-7 late in the first half.

Inefficiency on offense is something this season made Gators fans forget. Mullen does not want to go shifting too many pieces, but things do need to be cleaned up.

Something Gators fans may be a little more used to is a struggling defense. In one of the many notable moments from this week, Mullen let defensive coordinator Todd Grantham know his frustrations.

Despite the flare up, Dan Mullen continues to give his defensive coordinator credit for making halftime adjustments.

Looking at the statistics for this Florida defense, they rank sixth in both points and yards against per game. Also, shifting around the defense was blatantly noticeable on Saturday. In the second half, the Gators allowed Kentucky one first down and forced three interceptions.

For Mullen, one of their defensive goals was to prevent big plays. Check that box; the Wildcats did not have a play go for 20 or more yards.

The same adage stands true for Mullen as they prepare for a rival.

Shifting to Tennessee

Most teams in the SEC are talented, at least according to SEC coaches. Mullen is no different in his assessment of the Volunteers. Grantham’s improving defense takes on a test of talent throughout the offensive side of the ball when the Gators travel to Knoxville.

Then comes of the offense. Analysts and fans alike are calling for Trask to become Florida’s fourth Heisman Trophy Award winner and Pitts to receive a ransom of awards. As Mullen would advise, awards come with team success. So, what can Mullen and the rest of the Gators do to help Trask’s Heisman campaign? Win.

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask (11) throws a pass as Kentucky linebacker Jamar Watson (31) rushes during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

However, the “Third Saturday in September” might prove different this year.

The changed-2020 schedule pushed the Florida-Tennessee rivalry back from its usual September slot to December. The last time these two teams met outside of September was back in 2001, when a No. 5 Tennessee rolled into Gainesville to defeat No. 2 Florida.

The weather forecast brings in a few differences as well. For one, the temperatures in Gainesville are a brisk and frigid52 on Tuesday. That could provide some time to prepare for a slight chance of snow.

Mullen is not too worried as he says the experience should be unique and exciting.

Tennessee is on a five-game losing skid in which they have lost by an average of 21 points.

Currently, Florida opens as a 16.5-point favorite over Jeremy Pruitt’s Volunteers.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 3:30 on CBS from Neyland Stadium.

About Kyle Fansler

Originally from Seminole in the Tampa Bay area, Kyle is a contributor for ESPN Gainesville as well as local NPR and PBS affiliate WUFT. Kyle wants to get into sports with a lofty dream of being a sports broadcaster. He was raised playing soccer and baseball while watching hockey and football, so the knowledge about various sports is fairly extensive.

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