To say it was a great homecoming for Dan Mullen in his return to Starkville would not be doing it justice. Mullen coached Mississippi State for nine seasons before leaving last December for the head coaching job at the University of Florida.
On Saturday night, Mullen did something that had only been done once by the Gators in their previous five trips to Starkville: he won.
Mullen and the Gators sent a message to the SEC with an upset 13-6 win over the No. 23 Bulldogs who had this game circled for revenge ever since Mullen left. The win was Florida’s second conference road win in as many weeks and Florida now has four wins in 2018 which already equals their win total from one season ago.
The story of the night was the Florida defense. The Gators dominated, recording six sacks and never allowing Mississippi State into the end zone.
Not only was it Mullen’s return to Starkville, but Gator defensive coordinator Todd Grantham spent the 2017 season as the Mississippi State defensive coordinator, making it a sweet return for him as well.
Grantham’s defense always seemed one step ahead of Mississippi State, and when the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter, Grantham gambled with blitzes, resulting in numerous late-game quarterback sacks including one by Gator safety Donovan Stiner which ended any chance Mississippi State had for a victory.
The Gator offense was far from perfect, but did just enough on the ground and through the air to keep Mississippi State off balance.
The play of the night came on a trick play where Gator quarterback Feleipe Franks threw it to Kadarius Toney who then threw it to tight end Moral Stephens for the only touchdown of the night. That play was a welcomed sight for many Gator fans who long for the the days of offensive creativity which have been a memory in the past seven seasons since Urban Meyer departed Gainesville.
Florida now sits at 4-1 on the year and 2-1 in the SEC, but never mind the record for a moment. The Gators have gone on the road in back-to-back weeks in front of over a combined 160,000 opposing fans and have left with two victories. That is the sign of a good football team.
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