Lamical Perine scored on a 61-yard run in the opening minute and didn't stop until he climbed onto a platform for the postgame ceremony to receive the Orange Bowl's most valuable player trophy.
Continue Reading Below
Perine totaled 181 yards rushing and receiving with three touchdowns Monday to help No. 6 Florida beat Virginia 36-28.
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 and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Trask.
The win means Florida (11-2) will likely finish in the Top 10 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09. Second-year coach Dan Mullen credited Perine and the rest of the senior class with leading the resurgence.
“They restored the Gator standards and are building what we want to build,” Mullen said.
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. Senior Bryce Perkins threw for 323 yards and four scores in the final game of his career.
“I'm not into moral victories, but I'm proud of these guys and the culture we set,” Perkins said. “Next year, these guys are going to be a force to reckoned with.”
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.
“We were a few plays short,” Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
The Gators had the edge in crowd support playing in the Orange Bowl for the first time since 2001, when Steve Spurrier was their coach.
“Playing here at home in the state — I mean, we are the University of Florida,” Mullen told the crowd during the trophy ceremony. “It is our state.”