Florida won its game against Samford on Saturday, but only on the scoreboard. Anyone who watched the Gators’ 70-52 win over the Bulldogs may be inclined to call it a disappointment, considering Florida is one of the premier teams in the SEC and Samford is a 4-6 team based out of the FCS. Florida was a 36.5-point favorite.
Florida coach Dan Mullen — who has already garnered hot-seat talk over the last few weeks — scoffed at that notion in postgame, telling reporters, “Calling a win disappointing is disrespectful to the game.”
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Mullen is right inasmuch a win is a win is a win. But not all victories are created equal, even among teams that compete at the FBS level. And struggling to beat a sub-.500 FCS opponent at home — after losing to LSU, No. 1 Georgia and South Carolina by a combined score of 123-66 — is going to raise questions about the state of your program.
The high volume of offense Samford put up (530 yards) wasn’t just the only eyebrow-raising part of Saturday’s game. The Bulldogs also took a 42-35 lead into halftime — the most points the Gators program has surrendered before halftime, ever. Florida outscored the Bulldogs 21-0 in the third quarter, but allowed a touchdown and field goal in the fourth quarter to let Samford back into the game with a score of 56-52.
The Gators scored two more touchdowns in the final 9:03 of play to permanently extend their lead, but the damage had already been done to Florida’s image. It certainly didn’t help that William Harrod, a redshirt sophomore offensive lineman, posted a locker room video that showed the Gators celebrating the victory.
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Mullen first started facing criticism the Monday following Florida’s 34-7 loss to Georgia; a reporter asked him about recruiting, prompting Mullen to blow them off and say he would talk about that following the season.
By comparison, Georgia coach Kirby Smart was happy to discuss recruiting, saying, “If you don’t recruit, there’s no coach out there that can out-coach recruiting. I don’t care who you are. The best coach to ever play the game better be a good recruiter because no coaching is going to out-coach players.”
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Following those comments, Mullens’ Gators went into Columbia, S.C., and lost 40-17 to a 4-4 Gamecocks team under first-year coach Shane Beamer. This team also lost 20-13 to Kentucky, only the Wildcats’ second victory in this series since 1987.
Those losses, coupled with Mullen’s comments, have placed the future of the program into doubt. Mullen has already parted ways with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and offensive line coach John Hevesy, though it appears those coaching changes did not yield immediate results against Samford.
Florida finishes the season at Missouri and at home vs. Florida State. The Gators need to win one to gain bowl eligibility.