October 13, 2010 11:04:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Having already faced his mentor for the first time, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is set to return to the stadium where he made a name for himself as a quarterback guru and play-caller.
Mullen, who served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Florida from 2005-08, will coach against the Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for the first time since becoming head coach at MSU last season.
Mullen''s track record of success is well-known, as he coached Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and helped guide the Gators to a pair of BCS National Titles in ''07 and ''09.
That paved the way for Mullen landing the job at MSU, where he''s resurrected a once-dormant offense into a rushing juggernaut.
Saturday, when MSU takes on No. 22 Florida (4-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) in Gainesville, Mullen hopes to lead the Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2) to their biggest win since he took over the program.
Don''t expect Mullen to get misty-eyed when he steps on the field where both of his national title rings originated.
"It''ll be different in some ways, but for us we''re going on the road to play a game," Mullen said. "I don''t want to make more of it than just that. I''ve been in the stadium before so I''m comfortable with it. I know the surroundings. I know how the game works. What the set up will be."
MSU hasn''t won in Gainesville since 1965, and Saturday''s game will serve as the Gators'' Homecoming matchup, which they haven''t lost since ''88.
MSU is riding a three-game winning streak in which it''s averaged 40 points per game. The Gators, on the other hand, have lost two straight league games for the first time since ''07.
Florida''s struggles to achieve the same offensive success it had with Tebow at quarterback has made for an intriguing matchup. At least on paper.
MSU is averaging 93 offensive yards per game more than the Gators and has 21 more first downs.
But having been a part of Florida''s past success, Mullen isn''t putting too much stock into the Gators'' current run of form.
"I''m sure they''re gonna get things turned around, get things fixed right there," Mullen said. "They lost to two top-10 teams, so it''s not like they lost to two lesser teams."
Mullen should know UF head coach Urban Meyer''s ability to lead championship caliber teams, as he spent 10 years with his mentor at four different schools.
Many of Meyer''s methods were incorporated into Mullen''s coaching and program-building philosophies. How Meyer dealt with recruiting, managing his staff and disciplinary issues influenced Mullen and ultimately helped him land a job in the talent-rich, deeply competitive SEC.
But it wasn''t just the way Meyer went about his business as a head coach that prepped Mullen and fellow assistants. Meyer made a conscious effort to develop his assistants to be future head coaches, Mullen said.
"If you look at his track record and assistant coaches who''ve worked for him, a lot of them have gone on to become head coaches," Mullen said. "He does a great job of developing his assistants and keeping his assistants involved in things and decisions he has to make. So you understand what type of situations you''re going to get into as a head coach."
The respect is reciprocal.
"Dan is a unique personality. Dan and I get along great. ... real smart guy," Meyer said Monday.
Monday, Mullen talked about his relationship with Meyer extending beyond the football field and film room to the jogging trail, where the two shared the same competitiveness they do as coaches.
And after 10 years together, which included successful stops at Bowling Green and Utah, Mullen said he still talks to Meyer and reaches out to him for advice.
Mullen said he hasn''t seen Meyer since the June SEC coaches'' meetings in Destin, Fla. He said it''s been about two weeks since they''ve talked on the phone.
"I''m not a work the phone type person -- I talk to my wife and staff," Mullen said. "In the offseason, we''ll talk. And I imagine after this game -- they roll off our schedule for a couple years -- I imagine we''ll talk a little bit more."