Even some of the craziest of message board conspiracy theories have some truth to them. So when the Florida Gators are consistently one of the most penalized teams in the Southeastern Conference and a full-blown “the SEC is out to get the Gators” thread breaks out, maybe there’s some truth to it.
For years, even dating back to Steve Spurrier’s days dialing up ball plays the Gators have collected more yellow hankies than most teams. You could write it off, perhaps, on a coach, but when it’s a consistent thing through three, four, five different coaches and staffs more and more people will put on tin foil hats and cry foul. From 2010-2015 the Florida Gators were the most penalized team in the SEC.
Not under Dan Mullen.
Florida was penalized just four times Saturday on the road at Ole Miss. That made it 21 consecutive games where the Gators had less than 10 penalties in a game. Maybe that number doesn’t seem like a big deal, why should you celebrate not getting 10 flags a game? Well, Florida has had at least three games where they accumulated 10 penalties in every season from 2009-2018 (Mullen’s first season). Whether the conspiracy theorists were right or if Florida was just an undisciplined football team for the better part of a decade, it doesn’t matter because that isn’t the case now.
“They kill or extend drives. We put a lot on it,” Mullen said on a Zoom call with reporters Monday. “Our one big thing is going into game one was a lot of the focus not as much on Ole Miss as on ourselves and handle game mechanics offensively. Can we come out there execute and handle being back on game day Saturday.”
In 27 games at Florida Dan Mullen’s football teams have had 10+ penalties in just three games, all coming in 2018, his first season. Florida was penalized 10 times at Tennessee and then 11 against Mississippi State and LSU. That game against LSU in 2018 is the last time Florida hit double-digits, something that was commonplace prior to Mullen’s tenure. In fact, during that timeframe, Mullen’s teams have more games with five or fewer penalties than games with six or more flags thrown against them.
It’s hard to win football games at any level. In a season where you’re playing 10 consecutive conference games against the level of opponent that Florida is, you can’t afford to shoot yourself in the foot with senseless penalties. Under Mullen, Florida has done a really good job of avoiding mental mistakes, procedural penalties.
“It helps to have some older players. It’s something we really talked about paying attention to going into the week,” Mullen said. “We might not have as much research on this team as we have on other teams, so let’s really focus on our execution of doing everything perfectly going into the game.”
It may make for one less thread on the message board but there isn’t a Gator fan in the country that would complain about how disciplined Mullen’s teams are on the field.