Ridaught: Looking back at the Dan Mullen era

It’s done, and over.

Whether you felt like Florida football coach Dan Mullen should have been fired, or given another year based on his overall record and brief success at UF, the Gators will be without their head coach this Saturday against rival FSU.

Mullen had a record of 34-15, but his 28-6 start was better than legendary coaches Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer after 34 games. In January Pro Football Focus named him Coach of the Year.

He also led the Gators to three New Years Six Bowls, and Florida had closed the gap with an impressive showing against Alabama in both the SEC championship game last year and a two-point loss at home in September.

However, Florida was just 2-9 in its last 11 games against Power 5 opponents and the Gators were 5-9 overall in their last 14 games.

UF Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said he didn’t make the decision to fire Mullen until yesterday morning. It’s certainly possible that Mullen might still have his job today if not for the loss at Missouri on Saturday.

But all of that is in the rearview mirror now.

The Florida coaching search should be interesting. There are certainly some viable candidates available.

However, that’s the backdrop for what is still a big game in Gainesville on Saturday when Florida hosts rival FSU.

With Florida State coming in, there are plenty of reasons to beat the Seminoles.

First of all, it’s Senior Day. Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Zachary Carter, and Trey Dean III are just some of the Gators who will be honored and run out of the tunnel for the final time in a UF uniform.

Secondly, it’s a huge rivalry that could impact recruiting. Florida has won two in a row in the series, its longest against the ‘Noles since winning six in a row from 2004-2009.

It’s a chance to be bowl eligible and keep their rival from going to a bowl game. Both teams are 5-6 overall. A sixth victory means a bowl berth.

Special teams coordinator/running backs coach Greg Knox will serve as the Gators’ interim head coach on Saturday. It’s uncertain if he will be retained so it could be a resume builder for Knox, who is a veteran of 20-plus years in the SEC.

Knox is 1-0 as an interim coach, leading Mississippi State to a 31-27 win against Louisville in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl.

Hopefully the Orange and Blue will support this team to help 2021 end on a positive note. There’s still a lot to play for.

In all kinds of weather, we all stick together. Go Gators!

This column came 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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