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Ridaught: Gator Nation enjoys a big week

What a week for Gator Nation.

First it was the firing of Florida football coach Dan Mullen on Sunday, Nov. 21, following the overtime loss at Missouri.

Mullen was 34-15 in four seasons, but he went 6-9 over his last 15 games at UF.

There was no time to dwell on the loss of their coach, or the SEC road defeat, because the Gators had a lot to play for just six days later.

Just when it looked like doom and gloom for the Orange and Blue, the week ended with a bang.

But more on that in a moment.

Following a win on Monday against California, the Florida men’s basketball team played Ohio State for the Fort Myers Tip-Off championship on Wednesday.

The Gators stunned the Buckeyes, 71-68, on Tyree Applebee’s 3-point buzzer-beater.

“It was like a movie, honestly,” Applebee said.

It also had a March Madness feel to it, ala Chris Chiozza’s buzzer-beater in the Sweet 16 against Wisconsin in 2017.

The Gators completed the week 3-0 with an 84-45 win against Troy on Sunday to move to 6-0 for the first time in nine years, and they are undefeated under head coach Mike White through six games for the first time.

Florida moved up nine spots to No. 14 in the latest AP rankings.

That, in and of itself, might be enough to take the sting out of losing its head football coach earlier in the week.

But the fun didn’t stop there.

On Saturday, with an interim coach (Greg Knox), the Florida football team defeated FSU, 24-21, sending its seniors out on top in their final home game in a Gator uniform. They beat their rival and they earned a bowl bid.

Then, on Sunday, Florida announced the hiring of Louisiana’s Billy Napier as its next head coach.

Based on what we have heard about Napier—who led the Ragin’ Cajuns to their first three 10-win seasons in school history—this might be a slam dunk for the Florida football program. 

Napier’s quote, “Scared money don’t make money,” has Gator fans, and potential recruits, hyped.

This column is adapted from Mike Ridaught’s twice-weekly sports newsletter, which includes analysis, story links and local sports schedules. To get it delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here

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