Mullen: Turnovers Led to Loss

It's no fun when you're the offensive coordinator of one of the most highly talked about offenses in the country and lose a game at home to an unranked team. Dan Mullen is the captain of the Florida offense and took time with the media Saturday after the Gators lost to Ole Miss 31-30. Without having watched game film, Mullen believes the Gators lost mainly due due to turnovers.

The Gators were very uncharacteristic Saturday in turning over the ball. The offense had five fumbles on the day and turned them over three times, twice deep in their own territory. It was enough for Ole Miss to capitalize on the miscues and come away with the victory.

"You look at the game right now and what we've been preaching all year is take care of the ball, score when we can score, and play great defense," Mullen said. "(The defense) did a great job today and we put them in terrible situations. They came out and really played. We had more yards...but, we came out on the wrong end because we turned it over and they didn't. They followed our plan to win and we didn't. We got a lot of yards, but didn't get the win and that's the most important thing."

The message boards at FightinGators.com along with the call-in radio shows after the game were all over Mullen for lack of imagination and not using multiple players in the game, especially when they were the ones turning the ball over. Percy Harvin fumbled twice and Tim Tebow was part of three hand off miscues. Mullen was not about to turn from his super stars when the game got closer.

"When things got shaky, you go to the guys you can count on," Mullen said. "There were a couple of fumble exchanges and it got us out of rhythm at that time. The nice thing you see out of that group, you see those two guys and we went right back to them. They were kind our catalyst up and down the field as the game went on."

Another target for fans and media so far has been the offensive line. Again, before he has had time to look at the game film, Mullen believes they actually did a pretty good job on Saturday up front.

"I thought we did a good job picking up all the pressure..." he said. "We hit a couple of big plays during the day...I thought they did a decent job of protecting, we could have gotten rid of the ball quicker a couple of times. We threw the ball a bunch today. I don't think they played poorly, they probably played fairly well, but we will go back and check it out."

Mullen said once the fumbled exchanges occurred they shook up the play calling a bit to throw it around and settle down the guys on the field. Things seemed to click well throwing throwing the ball. It had nothing to do with lack of confidence in any of the running backs.

"I felt very comfortable with those other guys," Mullen said of the running backs on the team. "Emmanuel was running pretty hard, but we were comfortable with all those other guys going in there. We changed our mindset in the second half. We were throwing and catching for the most part fairly well. After we fumbled the ball a couple of times it kind of got into a tight game and went back and forth. I still thought we threw and caught the ball well for the most part."

There were four times in the game where Tim Tebow looked like he had a bead on his wide receivers running deep and just missed for what would have been sure touchdowns. Tebow was just off on the passes as they all just sailed over the receivers heads.

"It would have been nice," Mullen said of the first down play to Louis Murphy during the Gators last drive. "They blitzed us right there, we had a one on one with Louis Murphy and he had a post down the middle of the field. It seems a couple of them today, we took some deep shots, missed Riley Cooper and Percy in the first half. Just missed Percy and Murphy at the end. I have to do a better job making sure we get that cleaned up and getting that timing down. It's a game of inches and we were a couple of inches off."

Another question among fans has been whether it was the right call for Tebow to run the ball on fourth down at the end. Of course hind sight is 20-20, and knowing now that he didn't get it, they should have done something different. Still, Mullen wants the ball in his Heisman Trophy winner's hands to win the game.

"I guess you could second guess yourself," Mullen said. "...but we know we want to put the ball in his hands with the game on the line."

The Gators had another fourth down conversion they missed on the opening drive of the game and actually tried two more with success during the game. According to Mullen, he knows before the third down call that he will get a chance on fourth down if they don't convert the third.

"There was a little bit of wind out there today," he said in reference to not kicking a long field goal on the first series. "Coach (Meyer) gets on the phones and says 'we are going here'. You have one or to downs to get it. If we are going to kick a field goal, you know you have one to get it,if not you know you have two to get it. So we go from there."

There are possibly a million reasons the Gators didn't win the game on Saturday and at the very top of the list are the many times they turned the ball over. There were many things that also contributed to the loss, but it is done and goes in the record books on the wrong side of the win/loss column.

The only thing the Gators can do now is put it behind them. They still have just about every goal ahead of them if they take care of business. There will most likely be a renewed sense of urgency if there was not one before Saturday, but the first goal of the Gator team is still there for the taking.

"The goal coming into the season is how you win the SEC East and get to Atlanta," Mullen said. "That is always the focus and that never changes because that is all you can control. A lot of people and players get expectations of things we can't control. We can control whether we get to Atlanta and play for the SEC Championship. That was the goal coming into the season...that is still our goal and we still have our destiny in our hand."


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