By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Jim McElwain apologized repeatedly for his team’s performance — after a victory.
Too many penalties. Too many mistakes. Too many selfish acts.
All of it led to one close call against East Carolina on Saturday night, and McElwain was clearly upset following the 31-24 win.
"It was embarrassing. It was embarrassing to our administration, our university," McElwain said. "And almost came back to bite us in the end. There were some decent things that went on. But there were a heck of a lot worse bad things than there were good things.
"So there’s not a lot of positive to talk about other than the fact that we figured out a way to win a ballgame. But it’s not the brand or style we’re going to play."
Will Grier threw two touchdown passes, Jalen Tabor returned an interception for a score and the Gators (2-0) held on to edge the Pirates (1-1) for the second time in the last eight months.
Florida 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.
"It was scary because I didn’t want to poke the ball out," Davis said.
Strange ending to a strange game.
McElwain’s postgame tirade was simply surreal.
A week after totaling 61 points and 606 yards against overmatched New Mexico State, Florida looked far from polished in the Birmingham Bowl rematch.
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.
McElwain called his players "entitled," adding that it was clear they weren’t ready to play earlier in the week when about 30 players showed up for practice Monday without their ankles taped.
Two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after second-half touchdowns really set him off. He ripped defensive lineman Joey Ivie and running back Kelvin Taylor on the sideline and was still hot well after the final whistle.
"Embarrassing. We didn’t deserve to win that ball game," McElwain said. "Our lack of discipline and understanding of how you play the game crept up, and it was embarrassing. We’ve got a long ways to go. It starts with understanding selfish acts hurt the team and will be dealt with. And it’s not how it’s going to be around here anymore."
McElwain was equally unimpressed with his quarterback play, calling it "very average."
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 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. He 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.
Tabor’s interception return put Florida ahead 24-14 in the third, and it turned out to be huge since East Carolina scored 10 points in the fourth.
McElwain credited the defense for winning the game, but he was more focused on all the miscues.
"You can’t enable the behavior to happen continually, just like you will with your kids one day," McElwain said. "You’ve got to teach them. It’s not OK to act that way. It’s not OK to call attention to yourself when the selfish act hurts the whole team. It’s not OK."
The sluggish offense and sloppy play looked a little like the team that defined the Will Muschamp era. The game had a throwback feel for another reason, too: The Gators wore an all-orange uniform combination for the first time since 1989.
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