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Dan Mullen era begins with nearly-perfect start

Gators dominate Charleston Southern 53-6

Van Jefferson #12 of the Florida Gators celebrates a touchdown with Griffin McDowell #62 during the game against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Van Jefferson #12 of the Florida Gators celebrates a touchdown with Griffin McDowell #62 during the game against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 1, 2018 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It was just the opener. It was only Charleston Southern. It was only one game. 

But what a start to the Dan Mullen era. The Gators dominated a team they should dominate, beating the Buccaneers 53-6 Florida scored on its first drive of the game, then forced a Charleston Southern to go three and out. It was a microcosm of the game. 

Florida held Charleston Southern to 0 total yards in the first quarter, but it was the offense that had everybody’s attention. 

"That was awesome," Mullen said. "It was special to run out of that tunnel into the Swamp. The fans were awesome. It was a lot of run for our team."

Mullen, who earned his reputation as a quarterback guru while working with the likes of Alex Smith, Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott, saw Florida starter Feleipe Franks complete 16 of 24 passes for 219 yards and a school-record tying 5 touchdowns in a half. Franks completed his last eight passes to end the first half. He threw only nine touchdowns last year as a redshirt freshman.

"It was pretty good," Mullen said of Franks. "There were some things that he missed, but he made some plays. His communication was good. I thought he made pretty good decisions and made some plays"

Kyle Trask replaced Franks at quarterback in the second half and freshman Emory Jones come on in the fourth quarter.

Seven receivers caught passes, including five different Gators who caught touchdown passes. The running game also showed some signs of life, totaling 222 yards on the ground.

All of these numbers must be viewed through the prism of the opponent. Charleston Southern isn’t exactly a national powerhouse, but against overmatched opposition, this is what a program like Florida should do.

For instance, Florida opened the 2016 season at home against UMass, winning an uninspired 24-7 victory. In 2015, the Gators needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic 20-14. That was the Jim McElwain Era. Now, it’s Mullen’s time. 

The Swamp was full of energy, even with the Gators up 38-0 just before halftime. Fans cranked up the energy and noise as Charleston Southern attempted a field goal. It was blocked to keep the shutout intact and Gator fans erupted in celebration. Mullen said he was most proud of that play because of the effort it showed.

One season ticket holder commented after the game that it only felt that way once last year, when the Gators beat Tennessee on a last second touchdown. It took Mullen one half to bring that excitement back to the Swamp.


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