STARKVILLE, Miss — Feleipe Franks took a knee and the final seconds flickered off the scoreboard but Franks didn’t see it. The redshirt sophomore had the football in his hand as was sprinting towards the southeast corner of Davis Wade Stadium towards the Florida section.
He couldn’t contain his excitement. He yelled, pumped his fist and celebrated with the fans that made the 534-mile trip from Gainesville to Starkville.
The quarterback at the university of Florida gets more criticism than they deserve and Franks has been left for dead numerous times by fans and media alike. That final knee and the raw emotion he showed after the game optimize the transformation he’s making and just how far he’s come.
“You know, there’s always little things, you know, that I harp on him on but I do, I don’t think he ever got conservative he kept trying to take what they were giving us,” Dan Mullen said. “Not just, even our run-pass options he wasn’t like ‘okay I’m just going to hand the ball off here’ he was still taking, you know, trying to take what they were giving us and stayed aggressive all night long and it was huge for us to get a win.”
That may seem small but Franks’ decision making has been in question since he took his very first snap at Florida. On Saturday he started the game 8-of-11 for 91 yards. He took care of the football, managed the game, and as Mullen said, took what the defense gave him. In the past, old Feleipe if you will, would force passes into spaces he didn’t need to. He wanted to be the reason Florida won more than he wanted to just win.
That old Feleipe started to show after halftime. There were a couple of shaky throws including one he tried to squeeze into a tight space to Tyrie Cleveland. That was tipped and intercepted but Florida’s defense put the clamps on Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State. Franks settled back down and executed a simple gameplan to perfection. He was everything Dan Mullen needed him to be on Saturday night and everything Florida needed.
“I think Feleipe is very confident. That’s my quarterback,” C.J. Henderson said after Florida’s 13-6 win Saturday night. ‘Since last year I always had confidence in him. He stepped up big this year and is leading us.”
One area of progression that was most evident Saturday was Franks’ composure. He didn’t let the early deficit dictate his play. He didn’t start pressing after his interception. He remained calm and stuck by the plan in a hostile environment.
“I felt pretty composed. Like I said, I think it’s fun when you come and play on the road and everyone’s against you and it gets loud when you’re on offense. You have to dial in and you’ve got to focus,” Franks said. “Obviously we had a couple slip-ups in the beginning of the game, but once we got settled in we were just fine.”
Franks and the Gators are 4-1 on the season with their only loss coming at the hands of No. 17 Kentucky who is 5-0. With each game Franks is changing the perception. He’s growing in Dan Mullen’s offense and re-writing the narrative that followed him like a dark cloud in 2017.
He’s turning into a leader and an efficient quarterback, more than capable of winning games at home or on the road for the Gators.