New Hampshire native’s Gators play the season’s first big game on Saturday night against rival Miami.
All eyes are going to be on coach Dan Mullen and his Florida Gators this weekend.
Mullen, who grew up in Londonderry, N.H. and quarterbacked Trinity High, is ready to give everyone something to see, and hopefully something to think about.
The Gators’ opening weekend matchup with Miami Saturday night in Orlando will be on TV screens everywhere, offering fans, coaches and players from all corners of the nation their first taste of college football in nearly eight months.
“Everybody in the country is ready for college football, excited for college football,” Mullen said.
Mullen called the chance to kick off the 150th season of college football an “honor,” but he made it clear playing in the game also carries a responsibility for the program and the Gator brand.
“To me one of the great things is not just the fans, but all the other teams are watching us. What are they going to see? What’s our stamp?” Mullen said. “When every college person in the country turns on their TV, what’s their thought when they see the Florida Gators. We have to go out there and live up to that on the field.
“Everybody is watching ... what do you want them to think about you?”
Entering Year 2 under Mullen, the Gators are confident people will come away from Saturday impressed by the program’s direction and potential.
“I think this team is really special,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “I think that we expect to win games, I think that’s the Gator standard. We expect to go out there and win every Saturday.”
Outside expectations are much higher than a season ago, too. The Gators are ranked No. 8 in both the coaches and AP polls following a 10-win season and six-game turnaround during Mullen’s first season.
Mullen’s second Florida team has plenty of experience. Eighteen of 22 starters are either juniors or seniors.
Yet, the big stage still is pretty new to a lot of Gators who will play key roles Saturday night. The challenge for many players will be to balance the build-up and big-game excitement with paying attention to the details and little things that often decide games.
“It’s Week 0, we’re going be the only game on that day,” senior tailback Lamical Perine said. “You just got to, honestly, look yourself in the mirror and understand what you got to do and don’t lose composure and just play your game.”