Florida Gators football opens 2015 season with three straight night games, two in The Swamp

How the 2015 football season, head coach Jim McElwain‘s first at the helm, will wind up for the Florida Gators definitely remains to be seen, but at least it is now known how they will kick things off over the first three weeks.

On Thursday, the Southeastern Conference officially announced the times and television assignments for the first three weeks of the 2015 campaign.

For the Gators, they are as follows:

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Florida Gators football odds and ends: injuries, departures and more

The Florida Gators (7-5) concluded their 2014 season on Saturday, earning a 28-20 win over the East Carolina Pirates in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, a victory which marked the end of the four-year Will Muschamp era in Gainesville, Florida.

While the Gators have since announced a coaching staff and are prepared to move on under new head coach Jim McElwain, there are still some odds and ends to wrap up from the end of the 2014 campaign.

Bowl game injuries

A number of Florida players were hurt during the Birmingham Bowl but most appeared to be relatively minor injuries. That was not the case for junior linebacker Antonio Morrison, the first player since Ahmad Black in 2010 to record more than 100 tackles in a single season.

Morrison, who was considering leaving for the 2015 NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, was on the field screaming in pain with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. He was carted off the field, and UF interim coach D.J. Durkin could offer nothing more than a general statement about Morrison’s injury after the game.

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Florida Gators hold on to top East Carolina 28-20 in 2015 Birmingham Bowl

As it often has for the program over the last four seasons, it took a defensive play to send the Florida Gators to victory in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl on Saturday afternoon at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

Florida (7-5) triumphed 28-20 over the East Carolina Pirates (8-5) despite being outscored in the second half and outgained 536-339 on the afternoon.

Gators sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III intercepted Pirates signal caller Shane Carden in the end zone with 1:20 remaining, ending ECU’s bid at a comeback victory while sending UF to its first bowl win since the 2011 season.

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Gameday: 2015 Birmingham Bowl (Birmingham, AL) – Florida Gators vs. East Carolina Pirates

Location: Legion Field – Birmingham, Alabama [Capacity: 70,459]
Weather: 63°F, scattered thunderstorms (45% chance of rain), winds SSE at 13 mph
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Laura Rutledge)

Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 83 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS EAST CAROLINA PIRATES
(Interim) Head Coach: D.J. Durkin Head Coach: Ruffin McNeill
Record: 6-5 Record: 8-4
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American

Odds: Florida -7 | O/U 56

STATS / STREAKS / NOTES

» Florida, which is bowl eligible or the first time since 2012, is 20-20 all-time in bowl games. The Gators had won four-straight before falling to Louisville in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, the last of their 22-straight bowl game appearances. UF is also making its 20th appearance in a January bowl game in the last 22 seasons (since 1993), most in the nation.
» Durkin is serving as a head coach for the first time. He is Florida’s fourth interim coach all time, following Galen Hall (1984), Gary Darnell (1989) and Charlie Strong (2004).
» The Gators have not played at Legion Field since 1993. Florida is 4-2 all-time in the city of Birmingham, last playing a bowl game in town in 1988.
» UF is also 1-0 all-time against ECU with a 24-17 victory in Gainesville in 1983.
» The Gators and Pirates will play twice in a three-game span with UF hosting ECU on Sept. 12, the second week of the 2015 regular season.
» Florida is 23-7 against unranked opponents since Will Muschamp took over in 2011.
» Five of UF’s 11 games this season have been decided by six points or fewer (2-3).
» The Gators will not be ranked at any point in a full season for the first time since 1979.
» Despite its struggles, Florida’s offense has been an efficient scorer in the red zone, converting 38-of-42 opportunities (.905). That’s good for third in the SEC and 12th nationally. The Gators, however, have only converted 24 red zone touchdowns on those 42 trips (.571).
» Nearly 43 percent of opponent drives against Florida have ended in a three-and-out (66 of 155).
» Since Muschamp took over in 2011, the Gators are 23-5 when holding an opponent to 21 or fewer points, 20-3 when rushing for 150+ yards, 26-6 when outrushing an opponent, 17-7 when scoring first and 23-4 when leading at the half. Conversely, Florida is 1-8 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards, 2-15 when being out-rushed by an opponent and 5-17 when tied or trailing at the half.

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Florida Gators WR/KR Andre Debose, DT Darious Cummings to miss Birmingham Bowl

The Florida Gators will be without two starters in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl on Saturday as interim head coach D.J. Durkin announced Wednesday that wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose and defensive tackle Darious Cummings will not be with the team, ending their Gators careers.

According to Durkin, Debose is healthy and eligible for the game but decided to mutually part ways with Florida prior to the contest. Cummings is suspended for the bowl for a violation of team rules.

“We had two guys not make the trip with us – Darious Cummings and Andre Debose. Those will be two guys that won’t be participating in the game. Darious Cummings was a violation of team rules and Andre, it was just kind of a decision he made and a mutual agreement that he would be moving on with his career,” explained Durkin.

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Durkin: Cox out for bowl, McGee hopes to stay at Florida, Gators prepare for Birmingham

Florida Gators interim head coach and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Thursday to discuss the early portion pf practice ahead of the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, injuries, roster developments and the team’s preparation for the East Carolina Pirates. Florida and ECU will square off on Saturday, Jan. 3 at 12 p.m. at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.

UP-AND-COMER SIDELINED FOR BOWL

Redshirt sophomore defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. began to show some flashes as the 2014 season came to a close, but he will be unable to take advantage of the 20 bowl practices to take his game to the next level ahead of spring practice.

Cox, who announced on social media that he underwent surgery, has officially been ruled out for the bowl game after having a procedure on his hip.

“Bryan Cox had surgery and he will be out for the bowl game,” Durkin said. “It was a hip injury, something that was deteriorating over time that he needed to have done.”

In his second year of on-field action, Cox finished with 29 tackles (six for lost yardage) and four sacks. He will likely step into a starting role with the Gators in 2015.

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Florida Gators to play East Carolina Pirates in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl

Bowl-eligible after missing the postseason in 2013, the Florida Gators (6-5) on Sunday officially earned a berth to the 2015 Birmingham Bowl, where they will take on the East Carolina Pirates (8-4) on Saturday, January 3 at 12 p.m. ET.

Florida and East Carolina will play at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The game will be televised on ESPN.

It marks the first time the Gators will play in the Birmingham Bowl, which was established in 2006 and is owned and operated by ESPN.

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Florida-Florida State extend football series through 2018; East Carolina added for 2015

The Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles on Thursday announced that a contract to extend the annual in-state rivalry football game between the two schools has been signed through 2018.

Florida State will host Florida in 2014 (the last year of the old contract), 2016 and 2018 with the Gators playing host to the Seminoles in 2015 and 2017, extending the series which has been played annually since 1958.

UF leads the all-time series against FSU 34-22-2 but has lost three of the last four meetings between the programs after winning six-straight from 2004-09.

Florida State has outscored Florida 115-58 since 2010 with the Gators’ only victory coming via a 37-25 road win in 2012.

Also on Thursday, Florida announced that it will host the East Carolina Pirates on Sept. 12, 2015, which is slated as the second week of the regular season.

It is the second time in school history that UF and ECU will square off on the gridiron as the Gators previously beat the Pirates 24-17 on Oct. 22, 1983. East Carolina has bookended the Florida game with contests against South Carolina in 2014 and 2016.

Florida is also tentatively scheduled to face New Mexico State and Florida Atlantic in non-conference action in 2015 though those games have not yet been confirmed.

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