Florida’s Anthony Richardson leads Gators upset No. 7 Utah in home opener


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Standing in the tunnel and waiting to run through the noisy swamp for the first time, Florida coach Billy Napier turned to an aide and summed up the moment.

“Can you believe they’re paying us to do this?” he said.

It seemed like money well spent after the Gators earned their biggest season-opening win in more than 50 years.

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Florida running back Montrell Johnson Jr. is pushed out of bounds just short of the goal line by Utah safety Cole Bishop, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Anthony Richardson ran for three scores in his second career start, including a 2-yard springboard with 1:25 left, and Florida upset seventh-seeded Utah 29-26 on Saturday night to give a good departure to the Napier era.

Richardson was the best player on the court for most of the night. He really showed up in the streak, although fifth-year linebacker Amari Burney was the one to seal the victory for the rebuilding Gators. Burney intercepted Cam Rising’s second pass in the end zone with 17 seconds left.

“Someone had to make a play, it was me,” Burney said.

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It sparked a wild celebration for many of the 90,799 attendees – the 10th most comfortable in school history. Richardson took a knee from there, and the Gators rushed to the field to revel in their 33rd straight win in the season opener at home. It is the longest current streak in the country.

“This group has a lot of fighting in them,” said Napier, who replaced fired coach Dan Mullen in November. “They have a bit of a different edge to them.”

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham reacts after watching a replay on the stadium video monitor, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham reacts after watching a replay on the stadium video monitor, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Richardson rushed 11 times for 106 yards and was never stopped for a loss. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 168 yards and played football without turnovers.

“He’s going to get his (NFL payday),” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He’s 6-4, 230 and runs like a 4.3. He’s a terrific player.”

Richardson’s best game? He had an electrifying 2-point conversion early in the fourth quarter that put the Gators up 22-19. He juked former Florida teammate Mohamoud Diabate with a fake push, then sprinted right through fellow Utah linebacker Lander Barton before delivering a strike to Ja’Quavion Fraziars in the back of the end zone.

Utah responded and briefly took the lead, but Richardson responded. He moved the chains with a third throw and again with a fourth down, both of which established his winner.

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“I’m just trying to shake things up. I’m glad it worked out,” Richardson said.

Rising put the Utes in a position to steal one on the road for a team that entered the season with its highest preseason ranking in school history. But Rising’s last pass was his most important – or expensive – of the night.

“It wasn’t Cam’s best throw,” Whittingham said. “I’m sure he would like that back, but he played very well.”

Florida running back Trevor Etienne pounces on Utah safety Cole Bishop on Saturday, September 3, 2022 in Gainesville.

Florida running back Trevor Etienne pounces on Utah safety Cole Bishop on Saturday, September 3, 2022 in Gainesville.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Rising completed 22 of 32 passes for 216 yards, with a touchdown and turnover. He also ran for 91 others.

Tavion Thomas had 115 rushing yards and a score for Utah, which paused when it rained about two hours before kickoff and erased any advantage Florida had with the sweltering heat and humidity. of summer.

GAME CHANGERS

The difference was Florida’s success and Utah’s failure in the red zone. The Gators scored touchdowns on all three trips to the 20-yard line. The Utes had the late turnover and were stuffed with back-to-back goal-line downs to open the third quarter.

Utah also settled for two first-half field goals, one from 43 yards and the other from 31.

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TAKE AWAY

Utah: The defending Pac-12 champions showed resilience on the road, battling for the lead in the fourth quarter. Despite the loss, the Utes have enough talent and experience to be a factor in the race for the college football playoffs.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson runs through the end zone after rushing for a 45-yard touchdown against Utah, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville.

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson runs through the end zone after rushing for a 45-yard touchdown against Utah, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville.
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Florida: The Gators don’t seem to be in rebuilding mode for long. Napier’s recruiting has surged over the past two months and a game like this could do wonders to help him close the gap to Southeastern Conference heavyweights Alabama and Georgia. .

“There’s a lot of good energy in the dressing room right now,” Richardson said.

MILLION DOLLAR HANDSHAKE

Napier showed a bit of modern coaching nuance in the first half when he left his side during a time out to offer millionaire booster Hugh Hathcock a handshake and a partial hug. Hathcock is one of the program’s major donors.

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Hathcock, owner of Velocity Automotive Solutions, donated $12.6 million to the University Athletic Association in April. Some of the money will be used to renovate Florida’s aging basketball practice facility and some will certainly help with the football program. The Gators plan to name a tower of suites at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and its basketball complex after Hathcock.

NEXT

Utah: Host Southern Utah next Saturday. State teams have played once before, with the Utes winning 24-0 in 2016.

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Florida: Continues its tough opening streak when it hosts No. 20 Kentucky to start SEC play next Saturday night.


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