Birmingham, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Vernon Hargreaves III intercepted a Shane Carden pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter as the Florida Gators held on for a 28-20 victory over the East Carolina Pirates in the Birmingham Bowl.
The turnover came with 1:20 remaining, but East Carolina still possessed all three timeouts. After two of them were used by the Pirates, Jeff Driskel ran nine yards for the game-sealing first down.
Driskel had replaced Treon Harris, who was injured in the second half. Harris threw two touchdown passes before departing.
Adam Lane had 109 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for Florida (7-5), which was led by interim head coach D.J. Durkin.
Durkin took over for Will Muschamp, who stepped down at the end of the regular season. Jim McElwain was hired away from Colorado State on Dec. 4 to be Florida's new head coach and brought in Mississippi State's Geoff Collins to replace Durkin as defensive coordinator.
"Words can't really describe how I feel about these guys as a team," Durkin said. "I'm so happy for our players to go get that win."
Carden was 34-of-66 for 427 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for East Carolina (8-5).
Harris was intercepted by Josh Hawkins on the opening drive of the third quarter. Justin Hardy picked up 66 yards on a bubble screen on the next play to set up Cam Worthy's 4-yard touchdown grab that trimmed East Carolina's deficit to 21-14.
Florida quickly countered when Ahmad Fulwood caught a short pass from Harris and sprinted 86 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
East Carolina's Warren Harvey kicked a 24-yard field goal following a Lane fumble and converted from the same distance with 11:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Gators' offense was stagnant for a significant portion of the second half, but their defense continued to make stops, punctuated by Hargreaves' interception.
East Carolina opened the scoring when Carden made a back-shoulder throw that Hardy snared for a 3-yard touchdown.
Brian Poole picked off Carden on the next Pirates drive and scored on a 29- yard return.
After the Florida defense stopped East Carolina for a second time on fourth down, Lane had carries of 48, 15 and 3 yards to conclude the first quarter. He opened the second quarter with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Harris later hooked up with Brandon Powell for a 13-yard touchdown, capping a 13-play, 80-yard drive.
East Carolina looked to counter, but Poole recovered a Kurt Benkert fumble near the goal line.
Harvey missed a 42-yard attempt wide right inside the final minute of the first half.
"We had opportunities that we just didn't take advantage of," said East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill.
The Gators won the only previous meeting 24-17 in 1983 ... Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison was carted off the field in the second quarter with a left knee injury ... East Carolina has lost five of its last six bowl games ... Hardy caught 11 passes for 160 yards to finish with an FBS career record of 387 receptions ... Harris was 5-of-11 for 123 yards and Driskel finished 8- of-17 for 48 yards.