Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Lamical Perine scored on a 61-yard run in the opening minute and didn’t stop after that, totaling 181 yards rushing and receiving with three touchdowns Monday to help No. 6 Florida beat Virginia 36-28 in the Orange Bowl.
Perine carried 13 times for a career-high 138 yards rushing at the end of a so-so senior season. He came into the game with only 538 yards rushing this year in the Gators’ pass-oriented offense.
But Perine was too quick and speedy for the Cavaliers, as his dash through their secondary on the first series showed. He also scored on a 10-yard run, caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Trask and was chosen the game’s most valuable player.
The win means Florida (11-2), led by second-year coach Dan Mullen, will likely finish in the Top Ten in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09. The Cavaliers (9-5) lost their final two games but still posted their highest win total since 2007.
Trask capped a storybook junior season by throwing for 305 yards. He was lightly recruited and in late September became a starter for the first time since ninth grade.
Florida totaled 549 yards, including a season-high 244 rushing, and didn’t punt until midway through the third quarter. The Gators exposed the weaknesses in a Virginia defense that allowed more than 23 points per game and gave up 62 to Clemson in an Atlantic Coast Conference title game loss.
The Cavaliers’ offense tried valiantly to keep up. Bryce Perkins threw for 323 yards and four scores.
CLOSING IT OUT
Tanner Cowley’s 52-yard catch-and-run led to a Cavaliers touchdown that cut their deficit to 27-21 early in the fourth quarter. The Gators answered with a touchdown set up by Perine’s 23-yard run to the 1.
Virginia drove 75 yards for a touchdown with 38 seconds left, but Florida recovered the ensuing onside kick.
The Gators open Sept. 5 against Eastern Washington. They’ll have to replace four senior wide receivers, plus their top cornerback and pass rushers.
The Cavaliers’ opener will be Monday, Sept. 7 against Georgia in Atlanta. ”As many of these games as we can play, and we’ve earned the right to play in on the stage that we’re currently in, the faster the program accelerates,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said.