Gators Win The 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl
By J. Darin Darst
MIAMI GARDENS – Lamical Perine made the most of his opportunities, scoring three first-half touchdowns to lead the Florida Gators past the Virginia Cavaliers 36-28 in the Capital One Orange Bowl in front of 65,157 on Monday night.
Perine finished with 181 all-purpose yards, racking up 138 yards rushing on 13 carries and two touchdowns, while also compiling 43 yards receiving on five receptions, including a touchdown to earn Orange Bowl MVP honors.
“I want to thank God, my mom, for everybody who prepared me to get here,” said Perine. “It was a blessing. My team worked hard, I worked hard for a whole month just to get this win, so it feels good.”
Down 36-21 with 2:32 remaining, Virginia (9-5) did its best to tie the game behind the play of quarterback Bryce Perkins, who finished with 323 yards passing and four touchdowns.
Perkins connected with Hasise Dubois for his second touchdown of the night with 38 seconds left to cut Florida’s lead to eight, but Freddie Swain recovered the onside kick to preserve the victory for the Gators.
“They are an excellent team. You saw that all year. You saw they kept battling, kept fighting. They’ve got a hell of a quarterback, made a ton of plays. I thought we got a little sloppy and lackadaisical there in the second half,” said Florida coach Dan Mullen. “But I’ll be honest with you, I’m proud of our guys. We found a way to finish. I told everybody, it was not hard to go from four wins to ten – it was harder to go from 10 to 11, than it was to go from four to 10 like we did last year.”
Florida (11-2) also got a solid game from quarterback Kyle Trask, who finished with 305 yards on 24-of-39 passing and a touchdown, while also scoring on a 1-yard run.
With the win, Florida improves to 4-0 all time at the Orange Bowl, beating Georgia Tech 27-12 in 1967, Syracuse 31-10 in 1999 and Maryland 56-23 in 2002. The Gators also won the 2009 BCS National Championship in Miami, defeating Oklahoma 24-14.
“Congratulations, first, to Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators on a hard-fought and competitive football game. I’m really proud of my team, the culture that we’ve established, the competitive spirit, the intensity and the camaraderie that’s displayed from beginning to end,” said Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall. “We were a few plays short today in our execution to win the game, but it was not because of a lack of belief or confidence or ability.”
With Florida leading 27-21 earlier in the fourth quarter, Perine came up with a huge first-down run on 4th-and-1 to keep the drive alive. Trask then found Tyrie Cleveland across the middle for a 30-yard gain and a first down at the Cavaliers 24.
Perine looked like he was headed fourth his fourth touchdown of the night as he raced into the end zone for a 24-yard run but was called out at the 1. On the next play, Trask kept it and scored from 1-yard out, giving the Gators a 33-21 lead after a failed two-point conversion.
“I think this win is huge for this program, not only for the program but also this team and the seniors that brought in when Coach Mullen first got here from day one,” said Trask.
Perine got the show going on the Gators first series of the game as he took the first handoff of the game for a 61-yard touchdown run just 40 seconds into the game.
On the Gators next series, Trask was intercepted by Nick Grant, to give the Cavaliers the ball at the Florida 34. Perkins found Terrell Jana in the back of the end zone for a 34-yard score to tie the game at 7.
Florida marched right down the field as Perine scored his second touchdown of the game on a short pass from Trask, turning it up field for a 16-yard score, with just over five minutes to go in the first quarter.
“He’s one of the best backs in the country and came back his senior year, and if you just purely look at stats and rushing yards, you might just kind of get a misread on it, but the reality is he’s one of the best backs in the country and showed it out here tonight, running and catching,” added Mullen.
Virginia answered again as Perkins did his magic, scrambling on 3rd-and-8, before finding Hasise Dubois in the back of the end zone, who made a leaping grab for a 9-yard touchdown.
“Before the play even happened, my position coach – Coach Hagans – he was like, before you go out there, just be ready for the scramble drill, and I mean, he hit it right on the mark because that’s what happened,” said Dubois, who had a game-high 10 catches for 83 yards and two scores to finish the season with 1,062 receiving yards.
After a 23-yard field goal from Evan McPherson put the Gators up three, Florida got one more shot to score before halftime.
Mullen decided to go for it on fourth-and-8 at the Virginia 35 as Freddie Swain caught an 11-yard reception to keep the drive alive. Four plays later, Perine scored his third touchdown, this time from 10 yards out, giving the Gators a 24-14 lead with 2:13 left before halftime.
“He’s one of the best backs in the country and came back his senior year, and if you just purely look at stats and rushing yards, you might just kind of get a misread on it, but the reality is he’s one of the best backs in the country and showed it out here tonight, running and catching,” said Mullen.
Perkins kept Virginia fighting, throwing his third touchdown or the game, hooking up with Joe Reed for a 7-yard score to cap a 75-yard, 6-play drive, cutting the lead to 27-21 with 13:05 remaining.
But after Trask’s 1-yard run, Florida freshman Kaiir Elam intercepted Perkins at the 3-yard line with just over five minutes to play.
“We’re going to enjoy this for a day or two. Heck of a year, the 2019 Gator football team was really special,” added Mullen. “To come out and finish as a top 10 team, maybe even a top 5 team, Orange Bowl champions, that’s really special.”
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