GAINESVILLE — The frustration was evident in Jim McElwain’s face and voice as he spoke about Florida’s inconsistent play after practice Wednesday.
Maybe he knew what was coming.
The Gators (2-0) overcame an uneven and choppy performance to escape with a 31-24 win over East Carolina (1-1) on Saturday.
It wasn’t pretty, as Florida missed two field goals, committed 12 penalties and two turnovers. The Gators even trailed 14-10 in the third quarter.
But the three-touchdown favorite Gators bounced back, scoring 21 of the next 24 points to regain control.
A 6-yard dart from quarterback Will Grier to wide receiver Demarcus Robinson put Florida back on top just 3:32 after the Pirates took a 14-10 lead.
In the middle of a tight game, the quarterback competition continued. McElwain didn’t turn away from his plan, playing Grier for eight drives and sophomore Treon Harris for six drives.
Grier finished 10-of-17 for 151 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Harris finished 5-of-8 for 54 yards, and ran for 32 yards.
With a small three-point cushion in its pocket, the Gators’ defense went to work and scored some points of its own. Cornerback Jalen Tabor stepped in front of an East Carolina receiver and picked off a pass, taking it 39 yards for a touchdown to extend Florida’s lead to 24-14 in the third quarter.
Despite the interception, the Gators’ defense looked shaky Saturday. Florida was forced to play without All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (leg injury) and it showed.
East Carolina threw for 346 yards on Florida’s vaunted secondary. The Pirates threw for 230 yards in their season-opening win over Towson last week.