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Virginia Falls to Gators in Orange Bowl, 36-28

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Florida vs Virginia Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In the final event of an eventful sports year for the Virginia Cavaliers, the Hoos headed to their first ever Orange Bowl against the SEC’s Florida Gators, #9 in the nation. Though they played the Gators tough, they fell 36-28.

Florida needed just 40 seconds to score the game’s opening TD on a 61 yard LaMical Perine run. The Gators came in with the 119th ranked rushing offense, so this was a bad early sign. This was a theme of the first half, as the Gators totaled 175 yards rushing in the half. On the year, they averaged just 120 rush yards per game.

After the quick TD, Virginia went three and out, but then following a Nick Grant interception, they tied it up on a deep pass to Terrell Jana.

The next 17 minutes of game time consisted of just three possessions as neither defense could get off the field. The Hoos tied the game at 14 on this miracle from Bryce Perkins. The catch from Dubois is also one of the best you’ll ever see.

Following that play, the Gators began to figure out Virginia’s protection schemes. Perkins was under immense pressure for pretty much the entire next two quarters, and Virginia couldn’t move the ball at all. Virginia’s next five drives totaled just 22 plays and 51 yards. During that period, the Gators opened up a 13 point lead.

It seemed like maybe the Gators would take control, but Perkins struck back. If you can’t protect the QB, get rid of the ball quickly.

The little play-action holds the LBs for a split second, opening up the throwing lane to Cowley. And there isn’t time for the pass rush to get to Perkins. Cowley’s efforts to outrun the speedy Gator defense deserves mention as well. That play led to a Joe Reed TD that got Virginia back within a score with 13 minutes remaining.

Virginia had another chance to get back within a score later, but Perkins threw a bad interception with about five minutes remaining. That seemed to end the game, but the Hoos did make it interesting late.

After the Gators kicked a late FG, Perkins hit Dubois on a 2 yard TD with just 38 seconds remaining. That followed a TD from OL Bobby Haskins which was called back because Bryce Perkins’ backwards pass wasn’t actually backwards. Haskins was not an eligible receiver. Despite not counting, it was fun to watch.

Virginia’s ensuing on-sides kick was recovered by the Gators, ending the game.

Virginia had chances in this game to come away with the upset. A ton of missed tackles (yet again), dropped INTs from both DeVante Cross and Nick Grant, and a couple of misses of open receivers from Bryce Perkins.

The Hoos totaled just 52 yards rushing. It isn’t surprising that Virginia wasn’t able to run the ball against this defense. But the Gators rushed for 244 yards, which was surprising. Quite frankly, Virginia’s front seven was outmatched by the Gators OL.

The Gators piled up almost 600 yards of total offense, while Virginia failed to break 300. The game was closer that it might’ve been because of some big plays from Perkins. But the talent gap between the two teams was clear from the outset.

The Virginia star of the game was Perkins (of course) with 323 yards passing and four TDs. In the process, Perkins broke Shawn Moore’s team record for career total offense. Remember that Perkins played just two seasons for the Hoos. Virginia fans will miss Perkins.

Other impact players for the Hoos were Dubois (10 catches for 83 yards) and Jana (7 for 126 yards). Dubois ends the season with 1062 receiving yards, second all-time for the Hoos.

The Hoos season ends at 9-5, which makes it one of the most successful seasons in Virginia football history.