Perine leads Gators to Orange Bowl win

by Gary Shelton on December 31, 2019

in general

Perine scored three touchdowns to close out his career./CHUCK MULLER

Tuesday, 3 a.m.

For most of the season, he was just another guy for the Florida Gators. Another face in the team photo. Another piece of the puzzle.

Then came the Orange Bowl.

And Lamical Perine became a star.

Perine led the Gators in rushing this season (they were last in the SEC), but he did it with only 538 yards. He had just 18 yards against FSU, just 16 against Missouri, just 13 against Vanderbilt. With the Gators, the conversation was about quarterback Kyle Trask and the receivers and the defense. Especially the defense.

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Trask threw for 305 yards in the Florida victory./CHUCK MULLER

But against Virginia, in a 36-28 victory, Perine was the best player on the field. He scored three times (a fourth was denied when officials said he ran out of bounds) and rushed for 138 yards.

"He's one of the best backs in the country and came back his senior year, and if you just purely look at stats and rushing yards, you might just kind of get a misread on it, but the reality he's one of the best backs in the country and he showed it out here tonight, running, catching.
Florida coach Dan Mullen said. "I'm proud of all these seniors. Bought in. Every one of the seniors came out and played in their final game, played in this bowl game, and they get to go out Capital One Orange Bowl champions."

Florida's Ventrell Miller had eight tackles for Florida. / CHUCK MULLER

Perine had plenty of help. Trask threw for 305 yards, and receiver Van Jefferson caught six passes for 129 yards.

Virginia's Bryce Perkins threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns to keep it close.

"Well, we had to keep battling," said Mullen. "They're an excellent team. You saw that all year. You saw they kept battling, kept fighting. They've got a hell of a quarterback, made a ton of plays. I thought we got a little sloppy and lackadaisical there in the second half. But I'll be honest with you, I'm proud of our guys. We found a way to finish. I told everybody, it was not hard to go from four wins to ten -- it was harder to go from 10 to 11 than it was to go from four to 10 like we did last year.

"Eleven-win season, second straight New Year's Six bowl victory. Program is headed in a great direction. I'm proud of our guys, proud of how we battled and fought all year, all the adversity we faced. Great win for our team. That was a heck of a team we played. You knew they were going to play hard the entire game."

The Gators closed out an 11-win season in 2019, and won 10 in 2018.

"We've got to get back," Mullen said. "We're going to enjoy this for a day or two. Heck of a year, the 2019 Gator football team was really special. To come out and finish as a top 10 team, maybe even a Top 5 team, Orange Bowl champions, that's really special, and the 2020 team will be born in about two weeks, and if we want to go from 11 to 12, it's a lot harder to go from 11 to 12 than it is to go from 10 to 11.

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