GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jeff Driskel threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score, helping Florida become bowl eligible with a 52-3 victory over lower-division Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.
The Gators (6-4) snapped a 3-game home losing streak, giving fired coach Will Muschamp a victory in their home finale.
Treon Harris threw a 70-yard TD pass to Quinton Dunbar and a 19-yarder to Demarcus Robinson. It was the first time Florida had two touchdown passes in a first half since beating South Carolina in October 2012.
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Harris injured his leg late in the second quarter, and Muschamp turned to Driskel. The former starter plunged across the goal line for a touchdown and a 31-3 lead. He also lofted a 38-yard scoring pass to Robinson in the third quarter, hooked up with Dunbar for a 29-yarder on the first play of the fourth and found Michael McNeely on a 28-yarder with 6:18 remaining.
Florida ends the regular season at rival Florida State next week. Beyond that, the Gators will play in a bowl for the 23rd time in the last 24 years. Florida finished 4-8 in 2013 and missed the postseason for the first time since 1990.
Getting back there was a main goal, especially after getting knocked out of Southeastern Conference contention.
Florida also needed a feel-good victory after a dismal season that reached its low point last weekend. South Carolina blocked two kicks in the final four minutes of regulation and then upset Florida 23-20 in overtime. Athletic director Jeremy Foley fired Muschamp the following day. He agreed to stay on for two games.
Players vowed to send Muschamp out on a high note. Defensive tackle Jon Bullard even wrote ”Mus” and ”Champ” on his eye-black strips, which is against NCAA rules.
His teammates did their part on the field.
Eastern Kentucky (9-3) did little right all day.
The Colonels took several chances, but failed to recover an onside kick, came up short on a fake punt and faltered on a fake field goal.
Even on their lone scoring drive, they fumbled three times but recovered all of them. They also had a touchdown called back in the final minute of the first half.
Officials initially ruled that Jeff Glover caught a 29-yard TD pass from Barton Mann with 26 seconds remaining. But replays showed the ball hit the ground. Making matters worse for Eastern Kentucky, Glover was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for doing the ”Gator Chomp.”
So instead of settling for a field goal, the Colonels punted.
Eastern Kentucky, which is headed to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, also rested several starters.
Quarterbacks Jared McClain and Bernie Coney gave way to third-stringer Barton Mann in the second quarter, and standout running back Dy’Shawn Mobley also spent much of the game on the sideline.
It turned out to be a gimme for the Gators, exactly what they expected when they agreed to the $500,000 payday game.
That was supposed to be the case last year, too, but the injury-riddled Gators lost at home to then-lower-division Georgia Southern.
Florida looked much more prepared for this one. Playing for Muschamp and on ”Senior Day” may have helped.
Harris completed 4 of 12 passes for 162 yards before the injury.
Driskel, a junior who also may have played his final game in the Swamp, was 9-of-11 passing for 164 yards. He was benched after a turnover-filled performance against Missouri last month.