FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
Following a dominating 42-0 win over Vanderbilt, Dan Mullen, Antwaun Powell, Rashad Torrence II, Nay-Quan Wright, and Emory Jones met with the media to discuss the victory.
Here are the main takeaways.
- Mullen discussed the play of his two quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson. He said that there was much-needed improvement early in the second half, but then they got a little sloppy. “We made better reads,” Mullen said. “Then we got a little sloppy.” Richardson, in particular, struggled today. “All quarterbacks have a learning curve,” Mullen said. Mullen did explain that Richardson has improved over the course of the season, and that he will continue to do so. Jones threw for a career-high four touchdowns today and did not hesitate to take some shots down the field. “The defense determines where the ball gets thrown,” Mullen said. “The coverages they (Vanderbilt) played allowed us to take more deep shots.”
- Mullen also talked about his infamous halftime interview today where he said a total of three words. When asked about the quarterbacks, Mullen said, “Play better.” When asked about the play of his defense, Mullen said, “Awful,” and then left. Post-game, Mullen said that a lot of those mistakes are on coaching and that they have to help make sure everyone is in place and help keep up the intensity. As far as the interview goes, Mullen explained his short answers. “I wasn’t trying to be mean,” Mullen said. “She had questions, and those were my answers.” Mullen said he had a lot more words to say in the locker room.
- Mullen had a lot to say about his defense’s performance today. He was angry in the first half about the inability to get off the field in a timely manner, but was pleased with how they answered in the second half. “It was the mindset and approach going into the second half,” Mullen said. “I don’t want to down play that we didn’t give up any points. However, the standard isn’t ‘Let’s make a stop at every drive.’ It’s every play.”
- Florida has a tough two-game stretch coming up. Next week, they travel to Baton Rouge for a matchup with LSU. Two weeks later, they face No. 2 Georgia in Jacksonville. After last week’s loss to Kentucky, many are counting Florida out of the running for the SEC, especially with “season-defining” games coming up. Mullen disagrees. “I don’t know if the season is defined by anything until it’s over,” he said. He added that they are looking forward to playing those big games. Specifically, about LSU, who is Florida’s cross-divisional opponent, Mullen is excited. “I love playing big games,” he said. “That’s a big game, but it would be fun to play different teams.” Florida plays LSU every year.
- Adding to what Mullen said about the halftime message, Powell said the motivation was keeping Vanderbilt off the board. “The message was ‘Give them nothing,’” Powell said. “We wanted to keep that zero on the board.”
Rashad Torrence II
- Florida was playing with a shortened secondary today. With Jaydon Hill (ACL) out for the year and Kaiir Elam (knee) out for the third straight game, the Gators would have to rely on the talent of the young members of the secondary. In the first half, STAR Tre-Vez Johnson was also ejected for targeting, giving most of the playing time to Ja’darrius Perkins. Overall, Johnson was pleased with how the secondary played. “We just showed our depth and preparation from the week,” he said. “It was an opportunity to show how much work we do put in.” On Perkins: “He played great. He stepped up to the plate and showed he was worthy to be a Gator.” Torrence II compared Perkins coming in to him against Ole Miss in 2020, when Shawn Davis was ejected for targeting and he replaced him.
- Torrence II had a team-high 15 tackles today, including 1.5 for loss. “You just see certain tendencies from guys and can read plays,” he said. Torrence II gave credit to the front seven for forcing plays outside, which led him to make those tackles.
- Wright also discussed Mullen’s message at halftime. “We just got to pick it up,” he said. “We have to clean up the little things.” Wright rushed for a team-high 46 yards and added 57 receiving yards today.
- Early in the game, Wright busted off a 32-yard run that was originally called a touchdown, but then overturned after a review. Still, Wright praised the offensive line for opening holes for him today. “Every time I see green grass, I think touchdown,” he said. “Hats off to those guys for opening up those lanes.”
- Absent from today’s game was Malik Davis, who was out with an injury. Wright stepped into his role today and split time with Dameon Pierce. “I wouldn’t say I took his snaps. We all try to get equal snaps,” he said. “I thought he was going to play today.” Wright add that even though he was out, Davis kept his leadership role and was coaching players on the sideline throughout the game.
- Jones had arguably his most impressive performance today, throwing for a career-high four touchdowns. Jones said he was taking what the defense gave him. Vanderbilt gave him opportunities to take shots down the field, and he took advantage of them. “I honestly did not even know I threw for four touchdowns,” Jones said. “I looked up at the scoreboard and thought it was wrong. In his career, Jones has eight touchdowns against the Commodores. He ran for three touchdowns in 2019, threw one in 2020 and threw four in 2021.
- Jones has split time with Richardson throughout the season, but after his injury, Jones has solidified himself as the starter. After Richardson’s struggles today, Jones said he talked to him. “I told him everything is okay. He’s still learning and getting those reps,” he said. “I told him I went through the same thing and to make sure he keeps his head up.”
- Jones praised Wright, Jacob Copeland, and Trent Whittemore for their performances today. “We try to use him in all types of ways,” Jones said of Wright. He added that Wright’s versatility allows him to play running back and receiver. On Whittemore: “He’s a very smart guy. He does everything right. He’s always in the right position. He’s reliable.” Jones and Copeland had a successful two-play drive that resulted in a touchdown for Copeland. “It was something he needed,” Jones said. “I was excited for him. That’s been my guy since before I got here.”
- In his first season as the starter, Jones had a rocky start, but has since turned in a few solid performances. “Growing up, I learned that mistakes are going to happen. Everyone is going to look to you,” he said. “I never let it phase me. I know I’m going to go back out again. Look at it as an opportunity to learn from it.”
WCC: Updates on everything Dan Mullen and the players had to say can be seen HERE.