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How Florida Gators are changing travel after the coronavirus outbreak

And why FSU was pleased with freshman quarterback Chubba Purdy’s first start last week.
Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators will be traveling differently after tracing last month's coronavirus outbreak to their trip to Texas A&M.
Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators will be traveling differently after tracing last month's coronavirus outbreak to their trip to Texas A&M. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Nov. 16, 2020

With winless Vanderbilt up next, No. 6 Florida’s biggest opponent this weekend might not be the Commodores. It’s traveling during a pandemic.

The Gators' last true road trip (to Texas A&M) led to a coronavirus outbreak that infected more than two dozen players and caused the program to shut down for two weeks. UF has been on the road since then, but busing up the road to Jacksonville for a neutral-site game in an NFL stadium isn’t the same as heading to Nashville.

Coach Dan Mullen said UF will be instituting some changes to try to avoid another potential outbreak.

The seating assignments will be strategic and face coverings will be enforced, just as they were on the A&M trip. This time, however, the Gators probably won’t allow eating or drinking on the plane so masks can be worn at all times. Because visiting locker rooms are usually cramped — not good for social distancing — UF will try to adjust its pregame schedule, too.

“Unfortunately I’ve been to Vanderbilt, so I know the visiting locker room situation,” Mullen said. “We’re going to change our entire pregame routine to try to really limit the amount of time that we would ever spend in the locker room.”

Related: Can Florida Gators’ Kyle Trask win the Heisman Trophy?

Purdy good

FSU was impressed with Chubba Purdy's first start last weekend.
FSU was impressed with Chubba Purdy's first start last weekend. [ ETHAN HYMAN | AP ]

Florida State’s quarterback carousel continued last week with Chubba Purdy earning his first career start. He became the fourth player to start at the position this year, joining James Blackman, Jordan Travis and fellow freshman Tate Rodemaker. It’s only the second time ever that the Seminoles have started four different quarterbacks in the same season (the other was 1985).

Purdy, a four-star recruit, put up solid numbers at North Carolina State (15-of-23 passing for 181 yards and two touchdowns, plus 54 rushing yards). Coach Mike Norvell also liked Purdy’s intangibles, including how he saw the field and his “incredible” demeanor.

“His approach to not only the leadership role that he has as a quarterback but trying to make others around him better, I really was impressed with him,” Norvell said. “I think there are a lot of positives that we can take out of his first start, and I think guys have a lot of confidence in him. That’s just going to continue to grow as we move forward.”

Travis, who didn’t travel to North Carolina State because of injury, remained atop the depth chart FSU released Monday in advance of Saturday’s game against No. 4 Clemson.

‘Get the Heisman’

Although Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks was not kindly received initially by UF fans on Saturday, he received lots of hugs and fist bumps from his former Gators teammates.

One of those warm exchanges was with Mullen. In a video posted on UF’s Twitter page, Mullen and Franks said they loved each other before Franks praised his former teammate, Kyle Trask.

Related: Kyle Trask has another Heisman-worthy day in Florida’s rout of Feleipe Franks, Arkansas

“I was just telling Kyle, man, he might as well go ahead and get the Heisman,” Franks told Mullen. “Seriously, you guys are doing a hell of a job.”

Audible

“(If) we want to be a great team, we have to get better. So not only … is that focus on your opponent, that focus is on yourself as well. If not, I guess I’ll put on a cheerleading outfit and get on the sidelines and start trying to motivate us that way.” — Mullen, on motivating his team to play 0-6 Vanderbilt