MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — A late-season defensive drop-off persisted for Virginia on Monday night.
But quarterback Bryce Perkins and the Cavaliers’ offense made sure UVa stayed in the game, but it was Florida coming away with 36-28 win in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium.
The game was scarcely underway when Gators’ running back Lamical Perine raced 61 yards for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage.
That was followed by a three-and-out for the Cavaliers, although the momentum quickly swung in the other direction as Florida quarterback Kyle Trask was intercepted by the Cavaliers’ Nick Grant.
Trask had been intercepted only six times in 315 attempts going into the game.
All it took was one play for Virginia to make it a 7-7 game as Perkins connected with Terrell Jana on a 34-yard touchdown pass with 12:21 left in the first quarter.
Whatever momentum UVa had gained was quickly diffused as Trask threw a second touchdown pass to Perine, who broke a tackle attempt by DeVante Cross on third-and-10 from the 16.
Earlier in the drive, Virginia defensive end Noah Taylor had to be helped from the field, although he would return later.
It seemed that the Cavaliers were holding their own when Perkins connected with Hasise Dubois on a 9-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-14 with 14:53 left in the half.
However, the Gators (11-2) siezed the momentum at that point, although Virginia (9-5) forced a field goal that kept it close at 17-14.
Virginia countered with a three-and-out and a tired UVa defense gave up a 10-yard scoring run by senior Michael Perine, who had two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown in accounting for 21 of the Gators’ 24 first-half points.
Perine had scored only four rushing touchdowns during the regular season, although he did have four receiving TDs.
Perine’s 10-yard touchdown run with 2:13 remaining in the second quarter gave the Gators a 24-14 lead and that’s how the team went to the locker room, with Florida having outgained UVa 342-135 to that point.
The Cavaliers were at less than full strength defensively in the absence of senior linebacker Jordan Mack, who did not dress. All-ACC cornerback Bryce Hall had suffered a season-ending ankle injury when the Cavaliers had lost to Miami 17-9 on the same field in September.
For a Virginia team that had given up 92 points in its previous two games, the defensive performance was better than some might have expected. And, offensively, the Cavaliers were facing a Gators’ defense that had held its previous four opponents to 10 points a game.
After holding the Gators to one field goal in the third quarter, the Cavaliers got to the Florida 23 following a 52-yard pass from Perkins to Tanner Cowley on the final play of the quarter before the teams switched ends.
On third-and-5 from the 7-yard line, Perkins connected with Joe Reed on a touchdown pass, Perkins’ third of the game, to make it 27-21 following a point-after kick with 13:05 left.
Florida, which entered the game as a 16-point favorite, had a fourth-an-1 at its 44-yard line on the subsequent possession and Perine picked up the first down and the Gators made it a two-score game on a 1-yard touchdown run by Trask with 9:57 left.
UVa had a second-and-3 at the Florida 13 with five minutes remaining but Perkins was intercepted to end the threat. It was the Cavaliers’ only turnover of the game .
It was a two-score game at that point but Florida added a 42-yard field goal by Evan McPherson with 2:32 left.
The Cavaliers didn’t roll over , completing a pass from Perkins to offensive tackle Bobby Haskins who lined up for a trick play that first was called complete but was rejected following a replay.
Perkins then found Hasise Dubois for the final score with 38 seconds left.
Perkins finished 28 of 40 for 323 yards and four touchdowns. Dubois had 10 receptions for 83 yards and two TDs.