Far from an off week, Florida football focused on improvement vs. Towson

By Michael Phillips
September 27, 2019
Far from an off week, Florida football focused on improvement vs. Towson

The No. 9 Florida Gators (4-0) are about to embark on the toughest stretch of games on their schedule and perhaps any schedule in 2019. No. 7 Auburn and No. 4 LSU are coming up immediately after the Towson Tigers come to down, and No. 3 Georgia is just a couple weeks removed from those games.

You might think, OK, Florida should show little this week and start preparing for Auburn early. If that’s your mentality, according to head coach Dan Mullen, you’ve already lost — or you’re at least putting yourself at a severe disadvantage.

“We talked to the team this week,” Mullen said. “Obviously, there will be a lot more hype on next week’s game, national hype, it will be the CBS game of the week. But for us to even have an opportunity to win that game, we have got to improve this week.”

You see it every year. A major program looks ahead to a big-time opponent before facing a non-Power Five team, goes through the motions and either looks unimpressive or occasionally loses the game. 

Anything can happen on Saturday, but the most likely outcome is Florida laying out Towson. Most sportsbooks don’t even have a line for the game. That’s not the point, though.

This week is a vital as the Gators look to improve over the final two-thirds of the season. It is an opportunity to sharpen things up, provide more experience to young players that will be in tough positions in the coming weeks, continue to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and build more confidence going forward. 

“I thought we played a lot better against Tennessee than we had in the previous weeks,” Mullen said. “That had a lot to do with because we practiced better. Our scout teams executed a little bit cleaner, the defense finished plays at practice a little bit better. Thought we did an amazing job of our Friday night and early Saturday morning, it was a quick turnaround and preparation going into the game, of guys really honing into their routine and getting ready to go perform on a Saturday. 

“If we don’t continue to take a step forward with that this week, it’ll show. And it’ll show not just this week, it’ll show the next week and the week after that and the week after that as you continue to move forward.”

It’s only natural for players to be more excited for a prime matchup against a fellow top-10 team than for a game against an FCS opponent, but Towson is no slouch. It is a sound football program that can threaten defenses.

“They can put up numbers now,” Mullen said of the Tigers. “They are an explosive offense. They do a good job. They mix up personnel. They give you different looks. They have yet to play a game this year when they didn’t put up big numbers. It is a group that understands their system, understands their offense and executes it very well. They distribute the ball around. They are a very good football team.”

In three of four games this season, Towson has scored at least 42 points and has yet to score under 28. The Tigers are currently ranked in the top 10 for the FCS and play in a tough conference (CAA). 

Florida is currently a 33-point over the Towson — on the books that do list the game — but don’t be surprised if the Tigers offense does find room and makes plays throughout the game against the Gators. 

“They’ve got a couple of guys that have transferred in, but really they’re kind of a home-grown built team,” Mullen said. “They develop players, have a veteran group that’s out there on the field with some older players. Being a top-10 team, they know how to win. They expect to win. And you can see that on how they play and how they are in games.

“Front to back and top to bottom, their roster is very solid within their players and how its been built to be a championship and a top 10 level team within their division.”

As Florida prepares to face Towson and then its toughest stretch of games this season, it knows how vital it is to make sure every rep in the weight room, every practice rep on the field and every mental rep in film study this week is in preparation for what’s next. 

“We have great goals for this season, for the team,” Mullen said. “And they all include continually improving from one week to the next. And that’s got to be the focus — focusing on what’s important, right? What’s important is, ‘Am I getting better as a player?’ And I don’t want to downplay this week’s game or next week’s game, because if you ask me that question next week saying, ‘You’re a week off from another top 10 matchup, this one on the road, is it harder to stay focused?’

“‘No, it’s on our exact attention to detail and our development and our improvement from one day to the next of getting better.’ And that’s what we can control and that’s what we need to worry about. If we’re worried about other things, we’re worried about the wrong thing and we’re not going to be able to accomplish the goals we have as a team.”

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