Orange Bowl: That one should have been a lot worse

orange bowlHow in the hell did Florida need to recover an onside kick to clinch that win over Virginia in the Orange Bowl?

The Gators outgained the Cavaliers 549-375.

They converted six of their first eight third downs, and one of the two that they failed to convert, they got the fourth down.

It should have been over a lot sooner, but yet …

Hey, it took more than the onside kick at the end.

Dan Mullen had to go for a fourth-and-one at his own 44 up 27-21 in the fourth quarter, and he said after the game that quarterback Kyle Trask changed the play call at the line to get the ball to Lamical Perine for the short gain that moved the chains, or otherwise, man, that’s disaster in the making.

That drive ended with a Florida TD, then Virginia drove into the red zone, before the Cavaliers had their one offensive mistake of the night, an underthrown fade pass from Bryce Perkins intended for Hasise Dubois that was intercepted.

The Gators turned that into a field goal, but Virginia went 75 yards on eight plays to make it a one-score game in the final minute.

You don’t have to be all that good at math to figure: get that stop on the fourth-and-one, convert that one missed chance in the red zone, this one might end with Florida trying to extend the game with an onside kick.

This, with Florida dominating the stats from the get-go.

You knew going in that Virginia would need to play soft zone to keep Trask and the Florida passing game in some kind of check.

Credit to Mullen for calling a good game. He said afterward that Virginia gave them the run, so he ran, to the tune of 244 yards on 34 tries, more than double the team’s season average productivity on the ground.

But while you credit Mullen for calling a good game, credit Virginia defensive coordinator Nick Howell.

Yeah, Florida gained 549 yards, but three drives ended in field goals.

Virginia forced one turnover in Florida territory that set up a Cavaliers TD.

And credit UVA offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

One, for the Cavaliers putting up 375 yards offense.

Florida had been second in the SEC in the regular season, allowing 299 yards per game.

Then, two, for translating those 375 yards into 28 points, even with the one red-zone drive coming up empty late.

Virginia wringed every single thing it could out of both sides of the ball, and, again, not only was the result a one-play loss, it could easily have gone the other way.

Story by Chris Graham

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