Miami Gardens, Fla. — Lamical Perine scored on a 61-yard run in the opening minute and didn’t stop until he climbed onto a platform for the postgame ceremony to receive the Orange Bowl’s most valuable player trophy.
Perine totaled 181 yards rushing and receiving with three touchdowns Monday to help No. 6 Florida beat Virginia, 36-28.
The win means the Gators (11-2) will likely finish in the Top 10 in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2008-09. Second-year coach Dan Mullen credited Perine and the rest of the senior class with leading the resurgence.
“They restored the Gator standards and are building what we want to build,” said Mullen, who improved to 21-5 at Florida.
“My sophomore year, we were 4-7,” Perine said. “We came back and had two double-digit win seasons. It’s great, man.”
Perine carried 13 times for a career-high 138 yards rushing at the end of a so-so senior season. He came into the game with only 538 yards rushing this year in the Gators’ pass-oriented offense.
“He’s one of the top running backs in the SEC,” Mullen said. “People say, ‘The stats say this, the stats say that.’ But every time we needed a big run this season, he came up with it.”
Perine was too quick and speedy for the Cavaliers, as his dash through their secondary on the first series showed. He also scored on a 10-yard run and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Trask.
The Cavaliers (9-5) lost their final two games but still posted their highest win total since 2007.
Trask capped a storybook junior season by throwing for 305 yards. He was lightly recruited and in late September became a starter for the first time since ninth grade.
“This game is huge for this program,” Trask said. “We just continued to grind every single week, and here we are winning the Orange Bowl. It’s pretty incredible.”
Florida totaled 549 yards, including a season-high 244 rushing, and didn’t punt until midway through the third quarter. The Gators exposed the weaknesses in a Virginia defense that allowed more than 23 points per game and gave up 62 to Clemson in an Atlantic Coast Conference title game loss.
“Tonight we faced a team that they decided they were going to stop the pass and drop a lot of guys into coverage,” Mullen said. “We were able to take what they were giving us.”
The Cavaliers’ offense tried valiantly to keep up. Senior Bryce Perkins threw for 323 yards and four scores in the final game of his career.
“I’m not into moral victories, but I’m proud of these guys and the culture we set,” Perkins said. “Next year, these guys are going to be a force to reckoned with.”
Music City Bowl
Louisville 38, Mississippi State 28: Micale Cunningham threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 more, and Louisville capped coach Scott Satterfield’s debut season by beating Mississippi State.
The Cardinals (8-5) rallied from a 14-point deficit by scoring 31 straight to finish their big turnaround from 2-10 last season. Louisville also finally beat Mississippi State on the field for the first time in six tries, though the series now is tied 3-3 thanks to a pair of forfeits by the Bulldogs in the 1970s.
Mississippi State (6-7) had been trying to finish the season with a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2013 and only the third time since the end of World War II. Instead, the Bulldogs go home having lost a bowl game in each of coach Joe Moorhead’s two seasons.
The Cardinals had four sacks and recovered two fumbles, one returned 31 yards for a TD by safety Khane Pass.
Javian Hawkins led Louisville with 105 yards rushing, and he ran for a TD late. The Cardinals outgained Mississippi State 510-366.
Cal 35, Illinois 20: Chase Garbers threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score, leading California over Illinois.
Christopher Brown Jr. ran for 120 yards on 20 carries, and Makai Polk caught five passes for a season-high 105 yards as Cal (8-5) won its first bowl game since 2015.
Brandon Peters passed for 273 yards and one touchdown for Illinois (6-7) in his return after sitting out the regular-season finale with a concussion. Peters, who was shaken up again after diving out of bounds following a scramble late in the fourth quarter, completed 22 of 37 passes and added a team-high 68 rushing yards.
Garbers, who had been in and out of the lineup all season because of a shoulder injury, got going after being sacked on the first play from scrimmage and throwing an incomplete pass on the second. The offensive MVP of the game, Garbers completed 22 of 31 passes for 272 yards with TD passes of 4, 3, 2 and 6 yards. He also scored on quarterback sneak from the 1 early in the second quarter while helping the Bears set a season-high for scoring.