University of Florida

Florida Gators will face East Carolina in Birmingham Bowl

Florida defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin, left, talks with linebacker Michael Taylor (51) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
Florida defensive coordinator, D.J. Durkin, left, talks with linebacker Michael Taylor (51) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. AP

GAINESVILLE — Florida will get an early look at a 2015 opponent, as the Gators will take on East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on Jan. 3, the Southeastern Conference announced Sunday.

The game at Legion Field will air at noon on ESPN or ESPN2, marking just the second time UF has played a bowl game in Birmingham, Alabama — the other was a 14-10 win over Illinois in 1988.

The Gators (6-5) host the Pirates (8-4) on Sept. 12 next season, and are 1-0 all-time against ECU.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will serve as Florida’s interim coach; newly hired head coach Jim McElwain will not participate in bowl preparations.

Durkin, one of two holdovers from Urban Meyer’s tenure, replaces Will Muschamp, who was fired Nov.16.

“We’re very excited to be heading to the Birmingham Bowl,” Durkin said in a statement.

“Our guys are ready to get back on the field to begin preparation to face a very good ECU team.”

The Gators missed postseason play last season, snapping a string of 22 consecutive bowl appearances with a 4-8 record.

This season, Florida reached bowl eligibility with a 52-3 win over Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 22.

Florida played just 11 games this season because its season-opener against Idaho was canceled due to inclement weather.

The Gators hope to avoid a similar scenario from a decade ago.

In 2004, former coach Ron Zook was fired midseason and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong served as the interim coach in a 27-10 blowout loss to Miami in the Peach Bowl.

The Gators were visibly ill-prepared, as several assistants already had one foot out the door to join Zook at Illinois.

“We have a great staff of guys that are very professional in what they do and they will continue to do their job,” Durkin said last month.

Florida is 20-20 all-time in bowl games, last losing to Louisville in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.

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