There were a lot of questions regarding the Florida football running game all season. Several of those were answered at the Capital One Orange Bowl.
It was never expected that Florida football would leave the Capital One Orange Bowl with a massive running attack.
But, senior Lamical Perine, the No. 9 Gators ran for 181 yards of total offense and led the Gators to a 36-24 win over No. 24 Virginia Monday night in Miami Gardens.
Perine, himself, closed out his career as a Gator with 138 yards on the ground, three touchdowns — including an opening drive, 61-yard touchdown scamper to give Florida football the lead less than a minute into the game.
“Well, he’s one of the best backs in the country and came back for his senior year, and if you just purely look at stats and rushing yards, you might just kind of get a misread on it,” Florida football coach Dan Mullen said after the win. “But the reality is he’s one of the best backs in the country and he showed it out here tonight.”
He scored on a 16-yard run and a 10-yard pass from quarterback Kyle Trask, which was enough for Perine to be named the Orange Bowl Most Valuable Player.
“These past two years have just been amazing for me,” Perine said. “To be able to play for a coach like Coach Mullen has been amazing.”
For the Gators, it was back-to-back 10-win seasons, back-to-back New Year’s 6 bowl wins and its first 11-win season since 2012.
The win didn’t come without some struggle as Trask was a little tentative in the first half, throwing an interception on a key drive in the first quarter that stalled what was an explosive start to the game.
However, the redshirt junior rebounded to go 4-for-4 for 99 yards in the fourth as Florida football rattled off 10 straight points to grab a 36-21 lead with 2 minutes, 32 seconds left.
“I think this game is huge for this program,” Trask said. “I couldn’t more happy with how my teammates had my back when I first went it against Kentucky.”
But, Virginia never gave up as quarterback Bryce Perkins did damage to Florida football, primarily with his arm and not his legs.
The transfer threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns on 28-for-40 passing.
“Man, he was like guarding against a running back out there,” said Florida football linebacker Jonathan Greenard.
It was Perkins who hit Hasise Debois from nine yards out early in the second quarter to tie the game at 14.
“I was just getting outside the pocket trying to make a play, and usually anytime I’m outside the pocket, I try to find Has because, like coach said, his ability to catch the ball in traffic is unmatched,” Perkins said.
Perkins delivered a 7-yard touchdown strike to Joe Reed to start the fourth quarter and pull Virginia to within six of the Gators.
But, it would not be enough.
For their efforts, the Florida football defense held the Cavaliers to just 52 yards rushing on 21 attempts. The Gator defense got to Perkins for three sacks — including one for Greenard in his final game as a Gator.
Florida football also capitalized when they needed to, going 2-of-2 on fourth down and converting 6-of-13 on third down.