Florida rushes to beat Samford 70-52 in penalty shootout in quagmire
Gainesville, Florida. Florida coach Dan Mullen celebrated his team’s 70-52 win over lower-tier Samford as if there had been no mistake.
He sang with his team, posed for photos, shook hands with fans, and then made excuses for one of the worst defensive performances in the school’s history. It was even more surreal than the first half numbers that the Gators recorded on Saturday.
“Describing the win as disappointing is a lack of respect for the game and our players,” Mullen said.
Emory Jones had 550 yards and seven touchdowns, providing a job performance that might – temporarily at least – save Mullen’s job.
Although the Gators (5-5) finished off a three-game slip, the quagmire’s offensive penalty shootout felt more lost than any result in Mullen’s four years at Gainesville.
Florida gave up its season high of 530 yards and most points (42) ever in any run, and those defensive lapses against a midfield team from the Southern Conference came less than a week after Mullen fired two of his points. Senior assistants.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and running coordinator Jon Hevesy may not have been the only problems.
Mullen vowed to fix Florida after their departure which came after last week’s 40-17 defeat in South Carolina. No one expected this to happen overnight. But the Gators lacked energy on Saturday, looking lost at times and trailing by as much as 14 points in a game he would have preferred to win by more than five touchdowns.
“I don’t know if people are nervous or what, but the start is slow,” Gators defender Mahmoud Diabatti said. “We were able to go in the first half, get excited and go out and finish the match.”
Mullen has cited penalties and missed tackles as the primary culprit in his team’s defensive breakdowns. There is no doubt that losing to Samford (4-6) would have cost Mullen his job and left Gators in a bind for his $12 million purchase.
Now, though, Mullen’s future likely hinges on Florida’s next two rounds: in Missouri and at home against rival Florida State. Win both and he’ll have a chance to turn things around in Gainesville. He lost one and sporting director Scott Stricklin will likely be looking for a replacement for Mullen.
Nobody can look at Florida and see a program going in the right direction. The Gators have dropped eight of their last 10 matches against the Power Five teams and were on the ropes against a team from the Football Championship division.
Florida has won its previous four games against FCS competitors with a total score of 199-16. The Bulldogs scored touchdowns in five of their first six drives – with little resistance – and led 42-28 late in the second quarter.
Samford’s surprise showing continued in fourth place with a successful side kick that followed another touchdown. But the Bulldog settled on a field goal, failing to convert twice as fourth down and unable to stop the Gators down the extension.
Jones completed 28 of 34 passes for 464 yards and six touchdowns. All these passing numbers were the highest in the profession. He also ran for 86 yards and one point. His 550-yard total broke the previous school record (533) set by Tim Tebow in his last game, the 2010 Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati.
“I didn’t even know that,” Jones said. “Definitely more than confidence building for me.”
Kemore Gamble had six passes for 122 yards and two legs, and Dameon Pierce ran for 78 yards and two TDs.
Samford’s Liam Welch completed 33 of 52 passes for 400 yards, with three TDs and an interception. He also ran for 65 yards and two degrees.
The Montreal Washington 322-yard multipurpose finished for visitors. He ran for touchdowns, gained 10 assists for 124 yards and a point, and returned the kickoff 98 yards for another.
“We came out with a little chip on our shoulder as we’ve been talking about all week,” Samford coach Chris Hatcher said. “I am proud of our team. Getting the win is no consolation for us and we came here expecting to win the ball game. But our guys fought back.”
Samford: The Bulldogs earned $525,000 for the eight-hour bus trip to Gainesville, a decent payday that will help fund their entire sports budget. The best reward was to give Florida a staggering loss of the swamp.
Florida: The bigger question: How long has Stricklin been with Mullen, who has led the Gators to three straight six-course bowls in the new year? Maybe Mullen deserves a chance after one subpar season. However, mounting losses and Florida’s lack of talent and recruiting prowess on both sides of the ball make it seem as though his departure is inevitable.
Samford returns to team play and ends his season against Foreman next Saturday.
Florida plays in Missouri next Saturday.
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