East Carolina's Justin Hardy (2) is taken down after completing a catch by UCF's D.J. Killings (24) as Clayton Geathers (26) looks on during an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014 in Greenville, N.C. (AP Photo/The Daily Reflector, Scott Dav
The Daily Reflector, Scott Davis
December 07, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Florida will play in the Birmingham Bowl to begin the Jim McElwain era, even if he won't be leading the team.

The Gators will face East Carolina in the Jan. 3 game at Legion Field, the teams announced Sunday. Defensive coordinator and interim coach D.J. Durkin will coach Florida in the game.

''We're very excited to be heading to the Birmingham Bowl,'' Durkin said. ''Our guys are ready to get back on the field to begin preparation to face a very good ECU team.''

McElwain plans to be at the game and will attend bowl practices to evaluate players.

The game will be played about an hour from the University of Alabama, where McElwain once worked as offensive coordinator.

East Carolina and Florida, which could have an entirely new staff, will play next season on Sept. 12.

McElwain was introduced as the Gators coach on Saturday after leading Colorado State to a 10-2 record.

East Carolina is 8-4 after losing to UCF on a desperation pass in the regular season finale.

The Pirates had rallied from a 26-9 deficit in the fourth quarter.

''We are looking forward to the challenge of playing Florida, a program rich in tradition out of a conference which has our highest respect,'' East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said. ''We are excited to have another opportunity to accomplish something special for this senior class, especially against a team the caliber of the Gators.''

This is the second meeting between the teams. The Gators beat the Pirates 24-17 in 1983.

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