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Florida coach Dan Mullen thorough during bye week, has two-quarterback plan

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Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen, shown here with Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart, looks to make it two in a row over UGA this year in Jacksonville, Fla. Bob Andres / robert.andres@ajc.com

Coach Dan Mullen may have been under fire with Florida 4-3 overall and 2-4 in the SEC during the bye week, but the Gators have had some time to work out some things entering the Georgia game week.

Lost amid some of the howls and complaints in the Sunshine State is that Mullen’s football team has shown a high ceiling at times this season, averaging 501.7 yards per game.

Mullen stopped short of saying it’s a good time for Florida to play No. 1-ranked Georgia, but that’s the reality.

RELATED: Georgia coach Kirby Smart covers Dawgs’ bye week activity, reps shared

A high-profile game against the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs (7-0, 5-0) at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday (TV: CBS) offers Florida a shot at immediate vindication after its 49-42 loss to LSU last week.

RELATED: SEC Nation presence in Jacksonville amplifies hype for game

Coach Kirby Smart and his players will not be overlooking the Gators after seeing Florida derail their 2020 season by a 44-28 count.

“We need to eliminate the explosives,” Smart said on his coach’s show last Thursday, asked about the priorities for this week’s game in Jacksonville, Fla. “On their defense, which means a tackle for a loss or a turnover, and eliminate the explosives on their offense.

“We gave up way too many explosives last year, uncharacteristic of our defense to give that many up, and did a poor job of that. And give them credit, because they were very explosive against us.”

RELATED: Georgia QB JT Daniels back in team drills, a ‘little rust’

The Gators have been explosive this season, too.

“When we’re not making mistakes, we’ve been a pretty good football team this year and played well,” Mullen said. “Part of it, we have to find a way to win close games.

“You could change a couple of plays here, and a couple of plays there, and your record is better.”

To Mullen’s point, Florida could have easily beaten Alabama on Sept. 18 in a tight 31-29 loss. Its losses at Kentucky (20-13) and at LSU (49-42) were clearly attributable to fixable mistakes, too.

“There haven’t been many games where I’ve been coaching where we’re throwing four interceptions in a game (LSU) or had 15 penalties (Kentucky) in a game,” Mullen said.

The Gators could be on the verge of changing up their quarterback rotation with Anthony Richardson and Emory Jones.

Mullen wouldn’t elaborate on the possibility, outside of saying that both quarterbacks remain a part of the plan.

“I’m never going to get into the strategy of what we’re going to do in the games,” Mullen said. “I haven’t set the script yet from what we’ll call from the first play of the game.

“I imagine as long as everyone is healthy, we’ll play both quarterbacks during the course of the game.”

Like Georgia, Mullen saw to it the Gators were thorough during the bye week.

“We’ll look at everything, we evaluate everything we do all the time, at every spot on the field,” Mullen said, discussing the Gators’ bye week. “Our kids have a great attitude and great focus, and the energy we’ve had at practice has been really good.

“I’m pretty pleased with where the mindset of the team is right now.”

Mullen said he’s confident with either Jones or Richardson under center.

“We’re really fortunate we have two really good quarterbacks here, and we’ve played both of them in every game they’ve been healthy,” Mullen said. “So we’ll continue down that path.”

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