Tough night to judge these Gators — but it wasn’t pretty.

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

Dan Mullen said having the national stage alone Saturday night would give viewers an opportunity to evaluate his team and judge how they should be graded after the game. I’ve got a feeling the Florida Gators’ report card was somewhere around a C-minus.

Mullen is known for making lists. Detailed guy. Often over prepares. Once at Mississippi State in preparation for a game he wrote down every last thing he could think of and the list was as long as his leg. Don’t know if it helped, but it made him feel better prepared.

His list after Saturday night’s ugly victory over Miami would probably wear out a ball point pen or two, because there is plentyto correct. Frankly, if I were Mullen, I wouldn’t know where to start.

First, he wanted to find something positive.

“We’ve got a lot of things to work on, but we’ll get ‘em cleaned up,” Mullen said in his post-game comments. “We’ve got an open date and our guys can get some rest and we’ll fix ‘em.”

Roger that. The win is paramount and everything else is second, or third. Let’s not sugar-coat it, however, because this was not performance befitting of the No. 8 ranked team in the country on a night when a large chunk of America’s football fans were probably watching.

Most people expected better of Dan Mullen’s offense – and defense. I certainly did. As someone who has defended Franks pretty much all last year, watching him against Miami I began to ask myself, “Has hr regressed?” Fully expecting him to find a way to scratch out the “W,” however.

And at several critical points, that didn’t appear imminent. This is a quarterback-driven team and offense. And for just a flicker of a first quarter, it appeared Feleipe was on his way to a big night, picking up where they left off last fall.

First off Mullen wasn’t despondent – anything but.

“There are some teachable moments in there and some things he can continue to learn. But I think he knows we have the confidence in him to make plays,” said the Florida coach.

“You know, one of the things I kept seeing from him is, even if things didn't go right, if we made a mistake, he came right back firing. There wasn't a hesitation. There wasn't concern or lack of confidence in him in what he was going to do. And I was really

pleased in that.

You had to love how Mullen threw caution in the wind, gambling

three times on fourth down in the first 16 minutes making it all

three. (He wound up 4x4 on 4th down). Even had a fake punt by punter Tommy Townsend for one of them.

Up 7-3 and about to go up 14-3, Franks looked poised and confident. And then the switch was flipped – he reverted by to the old Feleipe. Another fumble killed a drive.

In a penalty infested game (14 Miami, 9 for Florida) full of dumb mistakes and misjudgments on both sides, the Gators somehow survived. After Miami kicker Bubba Baxa’s blown chip shot, which failed to increase the Hurricanes’ 20-17 lead, I wrote in my notebook: “Feleipe needs to make a statement.”

The offense had been struggling, the defense kept making dumb penalties and some of the official’s questionable calls just enhanced them.

Despite it all – turnovers, penalties, missed tackles, etc. – the Gators still gave themselves a chance to win.

And Feleipe did step up with his statement.

It was Franks’ 65-yard strike to Josh Hammond and subsequent 3-yard scoring run that gave Florida the upper hand as the Gators took the lead for the final time at 24-20, the eventual final score.

The problem was the final eight minutes when Florida kept giving the ball to the Hurricanes on turnovers and penalties. The Gators ran two offensive plays to Miami’s 24 in the final 8 minutes,

somehow staving them off.

There was a near disaster from a risky call by Mullen. With only 3:48 to play, Franks was hit as he threw and Romeo Finley’s interception gave Miami new life. Again

Not exactly a sterling debut for Franks, with four turnovers -- two picks, two lost fumbles. But his coach declined to throw him under the bus.

“The last interception, he gets hit and, you know, I'm trying to think that shows what were trying to do. I'm putting the game in his hands. I thought we had something there. We didn't. He gets hit. He was trying to throw it away. He gets hit. The ball kind of floats and gets picked. That's on me.”

As for the earlier interception, Mullen said: “And the other one, taking a shot down the middle, then throws one high, gets picked down the middle, comes right back, though his next pass is a strike for a huge play. And I think that shows his maturity and how

he’s continued to come back and grown in this off season. Just play the next play and let's go.”

In the game that seemingly would never die, finally Todd

Grantham’s pressure package finally began to connect and his defense began landing sacks on quarterback Jarren Williams (10 in all, two by linebacker Ventrell Miller). The final closeout was a fourth and 12 on Florida’s 26 and a hurry by Jeremiah Moon.

In the end, Mullen spun it as a win-win. “Great night for college football.” And he praised Franks for “hanging in there.” As a coach, he is gearing up for the marathon ahead, as he should.

Yes, admittedly, there is a long list “and a lot of things to work on.”

An ugly win? They say there is no such thing as an ugly baby. Or, as Mullen will tell you, probably not any ugly win, either.

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