Florida Gators Head Coach Dan Mullen spoke with local media following No. 3 Gators 38-24 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks. He spoke on what went well on offense, what was improved on defense and the long road he feels both areas need to go to be great.
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"Great win, 2-0 in the SEC. Obviously tough opponent. I thought we came out and we did some things better than we did last week. We made some mistakes that you can't make throughout the course of the game. I don't know how well we played today but you know what I liked our attitude. Our guys came out and made plays when we needed to make them at critical moments of the game, we made the plays we needed to win. We want to play better. I want to thank all the Gator fans that showed up today, exciting to be back in the Swamp. It was a lot of fun out there, so what do you guys got?"
HOW PIVOTAL IS KYLE TO KYLE?
"Well, it's good. Kyle had four catches today, which was pretty good. Kadarius, we thought we'd get a good matchup there. We got some good catches. Trent. Everybody, I think Kyle does a good job. He made a couple critical errors today turning the ball over twice. Bad mistakes, to be honest with you. But he took what they gave us. We're able to spread the ball around to a bunch of different receivers, so I think that was a real positive. Scoring some points with matchups that we had out there on the field, we did a pretty good job with it."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HOW FOURTH QUARTER WENT?
"Well like I said, I'm happy. I think we've got to get a lot better. We certainly have to get a lot better with how we finished the game. Offensively should have finished the game much sooner. Defensively have the opportunity to get off the field. I think the first time we stopped them, right, was on the last play of the game there. I mean we gave up 11 conversions today. We gave up good opportunities, whether it's third or fourth down, so we've got to do a better job getting off the field. Like I said, when it came down to it we made the plays that won the game."
ANYTHING SPECIFIC ON DEFENSIVE ISSUES?
"Execution, effort. There were a couple mistakes out there on the field. Some of the calls; I think we still have got to tackle better. We've got to strain to the ball a little bit better. With the attention to detail on all the little things, we're still catching up on defensively."
“I thought we did some things much better today than we did last week. Obviously making the plays to get off the field are going to be critical. I think the offense, we had two turnovers on the plus side of the field. You can’t do that. That really puts the defense in some tough positions at times. That was really on the offense. It’s really situations that the offense not doing what they’re supposed to do. If they don’t score at least don’t turn the ball over on the plus field position like we did a couple of times today.”
Surreal at Swamp?
“Hopefully the people that came got to experience a little bit of normalcy in their life. They’re spending an October Saturday here at the Swamp cheering on the Gators. There were a lot of cutout there, too. Saw a lot of the cutout fans there, and they were really excited, too. Saw a lot smiles on their faces the whole game. That was a nice touch, pretty cool. Great to be back out there, great to be playing at home, playing here at the Swamp. Glad people came out and got to see us play and cheered us on and gave us as much of an advantage as they could.”
Petty and Brady?
“I saw Tom Petty, didn’t see Tom Brady. I saw Nate. I saw Tim and Demi Tebow. I saw Charles Howell III. I saw a bunch of ESPN personalities out there. Lee Corso and those guys were out there.”
Impact of crowd?
“I thought they brought it. … I thought it was critical for us. It gives you a home-field advantage. Home-field advantage this year is going to be defined more than it has been in the past. Every Gator fans that comes and cheers and supports the team. They just don’t come and try to make it loud for the opposing team, which it what they normally do. I think they did a great job cheering on our team and giving them energy.”
“I didn’t think we played exceptionally well today offensively, to be honest with you. We made some critical errors in the course of the game. I expect us to play a lot better than we did today offensively. At times, we did some really good things, guys made plays, distributed the ball well at times. But we had a couple of three-and-outs, we had two turnovers. We missed a touchdown in the red zone. Just little things that a really efficient offense, when we’re rolling, that we aren’t going to do.”
Excited for Trent Whittemore?
“We’ve seen a lot of great things in practice all the time. I’m sure it was even more exciting for him than me, being a local guy growing up here and growing up as a Gator. Getting that opportunity is pretty special. We’re seen him, not just this year but last year. A guy that finds a way to get open, such an intelligent football player, he’s got great hands. You saw has athletic ability also on that big catch he made across the middle. It’s good to see. As we said, we keep rolling receivers through, getting different guys different opportunities. As we continue to grow as a team we’re going to need that to create that depth as this season moves on.”
“KT does a lot. You can see how he’s grown as a player for us in his ability to get open, his consistency in his route-running. Obviously he makes you (INAUDIBLE) you saw that in the kicking game. They started trying to kick away from him during the course of the game. He’s a guy you can move all over the place, put him in the back field, motion him out of the back field. To be able to do all the different he has to be smart and not really just intelligent, but a smart football player to learn how to do all the different things. He did a really good job of that today.”
9 different players caught a pass today
“I mean that’s a lot, I guess. When you look at it, I think people look and say, ‘how do you get the ball to this guy? How do you get that guy the ball? We call our plays and we’re going to take the matchups they give us. I think Kyle does a good job of that. We’ll have certain ‘get it to (plays)’ to get guys the ball but we’re going to take the best matchups that they give us. I think the first game we had 11 different guys with catches, nine today. We’re not a team that’s just force-feeding a ball to one guy. It shows that we have depth with the receivers, one, two, three, four, five, six different wide receivers with catches. Then people wonder how we had four from last year’s team go on to the NFL and now we have six with catches this year. We’re not like one of these teams that just throws it to one guy. We’re gonna spread the ball around to a lot of different players. It makes it fun for them knowing they’re gonna get the opportunity to get catches every single game.”
Dameon Pierce took over early, what does he bring?
“I think he runs the ball exceptionally hard. He’s a very physical runner. I think he’s played in the system now for three years and I think he has a good understanding of the blocking schemes, where to hit the run, how to hit it and as we run certain schemes where he expects the play to open up and hit the run. I think he watches those guys too. I don’t think he had a catch today but Nay’Quan and Malik had carries and catches. We’re gonna keep rolling those running backs through.”
Do you feel like defensive issues are fundamental or rust?
“We’ll see. I think it’s a yes, a combination of a bunch of different things. It’s not one thing that’s going to show on one specific play or one thing that’s gonna show up 15-20 times during the course of a game. I think there are a couple of different things, execution, when we get to tackling in the open field, we’ve got to make sure we’re getting lined up properly, making sure we get 11 guys running to the football properly. I think just combinations of those things. Then again, looking at it another high scoring game, a little more high scoring than what you’re used to seeing this time of year. I think defenses will start catching up as the year keeps moving forward.”
Kyle Pitts didn’t have a catch in the second half. What do you think South Carolina did to kind of take him away?
“Nothing. I just think we didn’t execute very cleanly. I don’t think we got into a very good rhythm in the second half at all offensively. A lot of that is going to be on me, play calling. Execution, I don’t think we had very good rhythm in the second half, with the three-and-outs, the turnovers, terrible. I don’t know, is that mean. … they did the same thing in the second half as the first half. We just didn’t execute very well.”
You mentioned the defense making a play when it had to. USC was five-for-five on fourth down, your defense has its back against the wall. Where do you think they are confidence wise and what’s it like to see them make that play?
“I think it’s huge to make that play at the end. You’d like to finish the game about five of those. We found ways to make plays to win games. South Carolina, give them credit. They did a good job. You look at the plan they had, held the ball for 36 minutes. We ran 53 plays in the course of the game, that’s it. We had 6.6 yards per play to their 4.0. They did a good job of converting, slowing the game down. I think that’s all part of it right there. The defense played too many plays. We’ve got to get conversions stopped. Offense has got to execute them.”
How difficult has it proved to lock in for 60 minutes?
“We talk about bringing our own juice. It’s 2020. It is what it is. So … Let’s go. Let’s go. It just is what it is and it’s not going to change. We have to continue to do it. I think there was great energy. Our fans and the people who came created as much energy as they can. We’re trying to create energy on sideline for our own guys to play. You saw it. We finished the game. The final plays of the game, we’re still playing hard. So … “
Between the slow start for the defense in the first half and 8-minute drive in the fourth, which concerns you more and how do you resolve it?
“It’s like everything. Like I’ve said a couple times. It’s not one thing, it’s multiple things. So … We won by two touchdowns. We made the plays we needed to. Every little detail of the game concerns me. I know you guys want to know if it’s this or that. Every little defense of the game concerns me. Offense going three-and-out concerns me. That’s really bad defense. Our offense is extremely responsible for playing defense. Twice we give them the ball at midfield and in the fourth quarter we come out with two three-and-outs offensively, so that’s really bad defense played by the offense. When we had opportunities to get off the field on third down paying defense, we didn’t. We made some great plays, then gave up some plays that we should make. Some missed assignments there. We have to evaluate our assignments. Have to evaluate if we’re making the right call. Have to evaluate if we’re making tackles the right way. If we’re executing the right way. … We’ll evaluate the offense and see what we have to do to fix that. We can’t have three and outs when we need first downs in the fourth quarter to put the game away on ice. All of the above. Every little aspect. Every second of the game concerns me about us getting better. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a game that every se and didn’t concern me. So this week will be no different than any other week.
Tonight a scary night with COVID potential being at home?
“I’ve told them, literally, every time you go into a place to maybe hold their breathe. … Hey, our guys have done a great job. We’ve been on campus. I gave them weekends off and all that stuff. I mean, we were home by 8 o’clock last weekend. I don’t know about you, but I remember about me being in college. I don’t want to give away too much, but it … (inaudible, sorry) … But we were home at 8 o’clock last week. Every night concerns, but I believe our guys have made some really good decisions and taking things seriously. People around Gainesville are really taking it seriously. So I hope we continue to make good decisions and continue to stay safe in what we’re doing and get ready to show up Monday morning with our players and get ready to go play Texas A&M next week."