Florida holds on to beat East Carolina 31-24
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida needed another defensive play in the final seconds to beat East Carolina.
Will Grier threw two touchdown passes, Jalen Tabor returned an interception for a score and the Gators held on to edge the Pirates 31-24 on Saturday night.
The Gators (2-0) secured the win when quarterback Blake Kemp fumbled at the Florida 25, and Alex McCalister recovered it with 12 seconds left. McCalister probably could have scored, but teammate Jarrad Davis tackled him near midfield to prevent a fumble.
Florida needed a late interception to beat East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl in January.
The Gators trailed 17-14 late in the third quarter in this one when Tabor stepped in front of Kemp's sideline pass and went untouched the other way for 39 yards and his first score. That provided some much-needed breathing room for an offense that never really got into rhythm against the Pirates (1-1).
The Gators managed 373 yards, converted 4 of 13 third-down attempts, committed 12 penalties for 105 yards, missed two field goals and had two turnovers.
And it's unclear whether coach Jim McElwain's team even settled its quarterback competition. Grier got the start and looked sharper than Treon Harris, but Harris was back on the field in the fourth quarter.
Harris finished 5-of-8 passing for 54 yards. He directed a 75-yard drive in the fourth that ended with Kelvin Taylor's 7-yard touchdown run.
Grier completed 10 of 17 passes for 151 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. The pick wasn't his fault. His pass hit Alvin Bailey in stride, but Bailey bobbled it as he went to the ground, and the ball bounced up and into Bobby Fulp's hands.
Kemp found Isaiah Jones on the next play for a 27-yard score, giving East Carolina a 14-10 lead. Kemp's third TD pass of the night cut Florida's lead to 31-24 with 3:04 remaining.
But the Gators responded -- with defense.
This one had a throwback feel. The Gators wore an all-orange uniform combination for the first time since 1989.
East Carolina's only other points came on the opening drive. Kemp completed all five of his passes for 73 yards, including a 31-yarder to Davon Grayson for the score.
Grayson caught the well-placed pass over Quincy Wilson, who was filling in for injured All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
The Gators ruled Hargreaves out about a half hour before kickoff, saying the junior "tweaked a leg injury Thursday during practice." Hargreaves showed no problems in pre-game warmups. He didn't wear a knee brace and even danced around during drills.
But Florida wanted to be cautious with its best defensive player, especially with the first of eight consecutive Southeastern Conference games beginning next week at Kentucky.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org