Virginia shows grit in Orange Bowl loss

orange bowlFlorida football coach Dan Mullen was right. Improving from 10 to 11 wins would not be an easy task.

Tonight here in the 2019 Orange Bowl, his Gator team learned what he meant.

A solid 14.5-point favorite against a Virginia team that was nursing its wounds after a 45-point loss to Clemson, the Gators struggled mightily to shake the pesky, resilient Cavaliers, eventually escaping with a 36-28 win after recovering a UVA onside kick attempt in the final minute.

Before an announced crow of 65,157 at Hard Rock Stadium, the sixth-ranked Gators never could knock the ‘Hoos to the mat.

Florida landed some blows, but time after time, Virginia got back up and asked for more.

The game started as though it was going to be another repeat of the Clemson debacle for the Cavaliers. Florida scored on a 61-yard run on the game’s third snap.

Virginia followed with a three-and-out possession, and the makings of another rout was on.

Instead, the Cavaliers found their footing behind dynamic, do-everything quarterback Bryce Perkins, and Virginia made a statement; not tonight, not another beatdown.

But in the end, Perkins and company couldn’t quite get over the hump, and the senior’s playmaking abilities came up a bit short to the big-play Gators.

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall, in an emotional postgame press conference, summed up this year’s squad perfectly.

“I told them I love them,” said Mendenhall. “I told them I’m proud of them, and I’m lucky to be their coach, ” added Mendenhall.

Virginia fans should feel the same: for their team, and for their coach.

They went the distance against a heavyweight, and was still standing at the final bell.

Story by Scott German

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