Sports

Mullen, Gators hoping for ‘one more shot’ at Tide

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Dan Mullen hopes Florida builds off its 31-29 loss to Alabama on Saturday — enough so the Gators get a rematch against the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game.

The last two seasons, the Gators have come close to knocking off the No. 1 team in the nation. Last year in the SEC title game, Florida lost to Alabama by six. Despite a completely revamped offense, featuring new starter Emory Jones, the Gators took the Crimson Tide to the wire again — this time failing on a 2-point conversion attempt with 3:10 remaining that would have tied the game.

“Where we’re headed as a program, I want a team that can compete for championships on a consistent basis,” Mullen said. “To do that you’re going to have to beat Alabama. Last year it was six points. This year it was two. Hopefully we get one more shot at them and get an opportunity to compete for another championship as we move forward. That’s where we want to be in our program, and that’s how our guys prepare.”

His players reiterated as much. Safety Trey Dean said, “We’ll see ’em again.”

The way to guarantee that, of course, is to win the SEC East, where No. 2 Georgia was the projected preseason choice. But before Florida even gets to Georgia in October, the Gators play host to Tennessee at home next Saturday night.

“We need to build off this,” Mullen said. “I know people think this is crazy, but next week becomes an even bigger game. This [Alabama] game has no effect on our Eastern Conference record. We control everything we want to do still for the rest of the season.”

Mullen said he was hopeful backup quarterback Anthony Richardson would be available for the Tennessee game. After making some highlight-reel plays in the first two games, Richardson was held out against the Tide with a hamstring injury.

Mullen said the fear was that Richardson would make the injury worse if he played against Alabama. “It will be great to — hopefully as the week goes — get Anthony back 100%,” he said.

Jones ended up playing his best game of the season for the Gators, and helped Florida to 258 yards rushing. But on the biggest play — the 2-point conversion attempt — Florida attempted a run and was stuffed at the goal line.

Mullen and Jones said there were multiple missed assignments, including one player lined up wrong and another going the wrong way.

Though the outcome isn’t what they wanted, Jones said the fight Florida showed to come back from a 21-3 deficit and make it a game proved what this team is made of moving forward.

“We definitely feel confident,” Jones said. “That’s the main thing we’re talking about was just winning out the rest of the season, and just winning the East so we get the chance to maybe meet those guys again.”

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