Florida rides big plays to 28-20 win over East Carolina
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Florida Gators got big plays from star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, quarterback Treon Harris and two of their lesser known teammates.
Harris threw an 86-yard scoring pass to mostly unheralded receiver Ahmad Fulwood, and Hargreaves intercepted a pass in the end zone late to preserve Florida's 28-20 victory over East Carolina on Saturday in the Birmingham Bowl.
The big plays helped the Gators (7-5) finish a disappointing season with a winning record while new coach Jim McElwain was among the spectators. Brian Poole also scored on a 29-yard interception return and Florida's defense repeatedly turned East Carolina's high-powered offense away from the end zone.
"Words can't describe how I feel about these guys as a team," interim head coach D.J. Durkin said. "I'm so happy for our players to go get that win."
Redshirt freshman running back Adam Lane was chosen the game's MVP after rushing 16 times for 109 yards and a touchdown with Matt Jones sidelined with a shoulder injury. He had only eight carries coming into the game, all in two lopsided wins.
Shane Carden was 34 of 66 for 427 yards for the Pirates (8-5), but Hargreaves' pick with 1:20 left ended his day. It was a school record for passing attempts and the most thrown against Florida.
Harris left late in the third quarter with what Durkin described as an elbow injury and was replaced by former starter Jeff Driskel.
Driskel ran for a first down on a third-down play on the final drive to allow Florida to run out the clock.
Durkin took over for the bowl game after Will Muschamp's firing.
East Carolina came in averaging 37.2 points a game, but managed only a field goal in the fourth quarter and couldn't cash in on a number of flirtations with the end zone.
"Coming into this game, people probably didn't think it would be this close," Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill said. "We had opportunities that we just didn't take advantage of."
Justin Hardy finished with 11 catches for 160 yards and Cam Worthy gained 130 yards on eight catches.