Florida football excited for Dan Mullen’s game plan, top-10 showdown with Auburn

By Michael Phillips
October 1, 2019
Florida football excited for Dan Mullen’s game plan, top-10 showdown with Auburn

Image Credit: ESPN Images

For the first time since 2012, the Florida Gators will host another unbeaten, top-10 team inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. If that’s not enough to excite you, combine it with ESPN’s “College GameDay” coming to town, the 3:30 p.m. ET featured game on the SEC on CBS, homecoming, classic throwback uniforms and a sold-out stadium, and you have the ultimate college football atmosphere. 

“This is what you come here for, to play in these games,” head coach Dan Mullen said Monday. “This is why you come to Florida, to play in big, big games like this. We don’t shy away from it.”

Last week, the concern was whether the team would be motivated to face a weaker opponent in FCS Towson. It’s only natural for college athletes to think ahead at times. Well, following the Gators’ 38-0 win, you would assume they do not need any additional motivation for the second straight set of Tigers they will face; if they do, they might as well throw in the towel. 

“I think they know this is here you’ve got to pick up the intensity,” Mullen said. “This is what you go for. I don’t want to downplay last week. I talked about last week. I talked about how last week was all about us, all improving and all of that stuff. It’s hard to keep yourself at peak intensity for every single week in a long season.

“This is one of those weeks you don’t really need to do that. If we do, we’re in a lot of trouble. I told our guys today, if they need me to give a ‘rah-rah’ to get us going, then they’re pretty messed up in the head right now. This is what you come here for, to play in these games.”

It will be the first time Auburn have visited the Swamp since 2007. A once-annual rivalry for 58 consecutive years (1945-2002) was done with when the SEC changed its scheduling format. The last meeting between the two schools came in 2011. 

It would be a big game if both teams were unranked. But Saturday’s matchup pits two 2019 heavyweights against one another. It also gives No. 10 Florida (5-0, 2-0 SEC), which has beaten up unranked teams and still had two close games, a chance to prove it can compete and beat the best in the country. 

“Definitely,” said senior wide receiver Josh Hammond when asked if this is where the Gators find out where they are as a team. “Top-10 matchups, you definitely find out a lot. It’s going to be a hard-fought battle for all four quarters of the football game. Guys will have to be ready to go and guys will have to be prepared so they can execute at a high level on Saturday.”

With a primetime game comes big-time pressure. Sometimes teams can’t focus on the task at hand with all the distractions; they can come out flat or make mistakes throughout the game. The Gators know they will have to be extra sharp in order to stay focused against No. 7 Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC).

“For us, it’s just comes down to execution and trying to eliminate all the outside noise around such a big game and just worry about us and our game plan, going out there and being the best we can be,” redshirt junior quarterback Kyle Trask said. 

One reason Florida may not feel on edge or exceptionally anxious is their trust and excitement for their coach’s offensive scheme. Mullen is one of the best game day coaches in the country, and he instills a lot of confidence in his players within the playbook.  

“I mean, you know Coach Mullen’s one of the most brilliant minds in college football,” Trask said. “Whatever he comes up with, it usually works out pretty well, and I couldn’t be more happy to have a coach like him [be]cause he comes up with such great plans week to week.” 

“We kind of got into already with the first down plan this morning,” Hammond added. “It’s kind of the same thing. We always have different plays that go for different teams that tweak just a little bit. I think the biggest thing will just be our execution and how we prepare throughout the week. Auburn has a really good football team. We have a really good football team. So depending on how we execute this week in practice will definitely help prepare to see how we’re going to do this weekend.”

This is Florida’s first big challenge of 2019. Miami was a huge, prime time game to kickoff the season in a featured spot — and a road game against this improved version of Kentucky is never easy — but neither provided the tests a team like Auburn will. 

The Gators don’t quite see it that way, however. 

“You don’t get many opportunities like this: ‘College GameDay,’ top-10 matchup, 3:30 prime-time kickoff,” Hammond said. “You don’t get many of ‘em, so you definitely try to take advantage of your opportunities. 

“Guys will be flying around all week. Everybody will be motivated just because of the game. There’s not really much to say. You shouldn’t have to wind guys up for games like this.”

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