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No. 24 Virginia falls to No. 9 Florida 36-28 in first-ever Orange Bowl appearance

The Cavaliers’ late push came up short against the Gators

<p>Bryce Perkins threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns in the final game of his college football career.</p>

Bryce Perkins threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns in the final game of his college football career.

After yet another impressive season under Coach Bronco Mendenhall, No. 24 Virginia football fell in the 2019 Capital One Orange Bowl, 36-28, to No. 9 Florida. 

The Cavaliers (9-4, 6-2 ACC) trailed the Gators (11-2, 6-2 SEC) virtually the entire game as senior quarterback Bryce Perkins’ heroic efforts fell short. Perkins finished with 323 passing yards — the most Florida’s defense has given up all year — and four touchdowns. Most importantly, Perkins broke Virginia’s all-time career yardage record in the fourth quarter.

Florida came out firing on all cylinders, scoring on the opening drive via a 61-yard touchdown run from senior running back Lamical Perine. The Gators’ next drive was cut short as junior quarterback Kyle Trask threw an interception to junior cornerback Nick Grant.

On the very next play, Virginia equalized with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Perkins to junior wide receiver Terrell Jana. Florida scored on its next possession, but the Cavaliers responded with a touchdown of its own to tie the game at 14-14 on a third down deep in Florida territory. Perkins escaped pressure, jumped over defenders and threw a desperate pass to the back of the end zone. Senior wide receiver Hasise Dubois caught the ball over a Florida player for the score.

The Gators flexed their muscles in the latter half of the second quarter. Florida used a field goal to regain the lead, forced a three-and-out and scored another touchdown to go up 24-14 at halftime

The third quarter was scoreless until the Gators kicked a field goal with 16 seconds remaining to push their lead to 27-14. 

With seconds left in the penultimate quarter, Perkins found senior tight end Tanner Cowley on a 52-yard reception, and the Cavaliers headed into the fourth quarter with some momentum. Virginia opened the final period with a seven-yard touchdown off a screen pass to senior wide receiver Joe Reed. With 13 minutes left in the game, Florida held a 27-21 lead.

Despite Virginia finally gaining momentum, the Gators responded with a long scoring drive that extended the Florida lead to 33-21. While the Cavaliers marched right back into the red zone, Perkins threw his one and only interception, which Florida converted into a field goal. 

Virginia scored late with Perkins finding Dubois for the second time in the end zone to cut Florida’s lead to eight points. However, the Cavaliers couldn’t keep their comeback hopes alive for long as the Gators recovered the onside kick to seal the victory, 36-28.

Virginia was just the second team this year to score at least 28 points against Florida — the other was top-ranked LSU. However, the Gators’ 549 yards of total offense was just too much for the Cavaliers.

Virginia will return next fall to kick off the 2020 college football season. 

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