Updated: Nov 11, 2020
There's a party goin' on right here A dedication to last throughout the years So bring your good times and your laughter too We gonna celebrate and party with you Come on now --Celebration by Kool and the Gang, 1980 There wasn’t much for the Florida Gators to celebrate back in 1980 as Charlie Pell was just coming off that winless season. Gator fans had first begun wearing their colors and had started the chomping. But the real cause for celebration was yet a decade away. Steve Spurrier started it. Urban Meyer doubled down on it in 2006 and 2008. And except for a few minor blips on the screens of Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain, it’s been a long drought between drinks of champagne. “Nobody celebrated more than Steve Spurrier,” Athletics Director Jeremy Foley once said, admitting he also relished it. Naturally, after Saturday’s win, the HBC was happy about Florida finally winning over the team he loved to beat like a dusty rug on a clothesline. When they crossed paths Monday on the way to work, there was no champagne drinking or small bottles of wine exchanged, but apparently the HBC let Mullen know the degree of his pleasure. In the meantime, Mullen had expressed his glee about the 44-28 thrashing of Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs, vanquishing them into second place in the SEC East, as he leapt into the stands of TIAA Bank Field with several players. Social distancing be damned. (Besides, he’s had Covid-19.) “He was excited,” Mullen said of Spurrier at his Monday press conference. Mullen also noted that the HBC is much happier when the Gators score big, which they did (44) but have yet to match the 51 points (twice) the Spurrer’s team did vs Georgia. But Mullen’s first time winning the Georgia game as Florida head coach, Spurrier thought “was cause for a little celebration. I know he was fired up for us.” As he said when he took the job, Mullen wants football to be fun. So he took a shot and broke the rules about social distancing, jumping into the stands, which I asked him about, and he replied: “We’re allowed to have fun sometimes, you know? It’s like we’ve become a 'no fun' year.” The quandary for Mullen and Florida, aside from political and physical correctness, is how to properly embrace and balance the joy that comes with finally knocking off a bitter rival after a three-year drought without losing focus on a dangerous Arkansas team that comes to town Saturday with a former player and teammate at the helm.
it feels good to beat Georgia, and sometimes you must dance. (Florida Gators photo)
So I asked Mullen, how can you celebrate 24 hours and then move on?
“It was only about 16 (hours), maybe less than that even," Mullen replied. "I don’t know what time the game ended. By the time I got home, it was probably closer to a celebration of eight hours. You’re just on to the next game. I think for coaches, it’s a little bit easier. We’re sitting there getting the game plan organized and trying to get prepared to go play an excellent Arkansas team. But also for our players. I think, you know, they have to understand. “We didn’t come into the season and our goal on the season was to just beat Georgia. That wasn’t like the, ‘Hey what do you guys want to accomplish this year?’ That wasn’t part of it. I think our guys wanted to be in a position to compete for a championship. And we’re still in that position. But there’s a lot of work to do if we want to make that happen. That’s been the focus, and that’s the discussion. And if we don’t get better, it’s not going to happen. We have to get back to work and improve.” In other words, if you start out at base camp with plans to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro, you can’t stop halfway up and throw a victory party. Especially with Arkansas and Feleipe Franks headed to Hogtown. An improved Arkansas squad under Sam Pittman – although he’s sidelined with Covid this week – is likely one of two main obstacles standing in the way of what is looking more and more like an SEC East title run for Mullen’s Gators. And they’ve got a quarterback with a big arm: Feleipe Franks. Mullen said he fully expects his former quarterback to arrive with blood in his eye, determined to beat his old coaches and teammates, because that’s who he is – competitive fire burning in his belly. Franks remains friends and keeps in touch with Kyle Trask, Coach Brian Johnson and the Mullen family (mostly Megan) on a regular basis. But they he wants "to beat your butt." And a note of warning to Todd Grantham: Those Georgia receivers who got behind the secondary could have likely scored had if Feleipe had been heaving those long tosses. Beating Georgia has created a buzz among the Gator Nation and when asked about how that might manifest itself, Mullen said he’s hoping for a capacity crowd that’s enthusiastically pulling for the Gators.
Everything tastes better after a Georgia win -- kisses are even sweeter. (Florida Gators photo)
“Let’s hope that the fans are excited and that—” he stopped short to make certain he had the right words – “however many fans are allowed in The Swamp, come to The Swamp and create a great atmosphere. Right? That we — whatever they say the number is … that they come and support their team and create energy, excitement and noise within the stadium, have a great time and come watch this team play. I hope that the response of fans.” Looking a bit smug, as if he finally got one right, Mullen said with a tiny, wry grin: “I didn’t use the word ‘pack’ this time, you know? But we want as many that can come to come.” And so, I replied, also wryly, with: “Good answer!” ReplyForward