Florida Shocks Utah In ‘The Swamp’ As The Billy Napier Era Starts With A Bang

It had the potential of being a great game in Gainesville and it lived up to the hype. Utah traveled to the Deep South to take on Florida, with the college football world wondering if the Florida Gators could pull off the upset in Billy Napier’s first game.

Turns out, Anthony Richardson lived up to the hype and Florida shocked the Utes, winning 29-26.

The Anthony Richardson era in Gainesville has started and it looks fantastic at the moment, after the quarterback rushed for three touchdowns Saturday night. A balanced attack on offense, with Richardson and Montrell Johnson giving the Gators a healthy dose of yards on the ground.

But this was the coming out party for Richardson, who looked like a seasoned veteran against a tough Utah defense.

Florida head coach Billy Napier celebrates a touchdown during the game against the Utah Utes on September 3, 2022.
Florida head coach Billy Napier celebrates a touchdown during the home opener against the Utah Utes. (Florida Athletics and UAA Communications)

Richardson finished the game with 168 yards passing, while rushing for 104 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sophomore Xzavier Henderson and junior Ricky Pearsall were also a problem at receiver, even if the stat sheet doesn’t portray it.

The Gators have now won 33-consecutive home openers.

In front of the largest opening game crowd in program history, Florida made a statement, just one game into the Billy Napier era.

Photo courtesy of Florida Gators’ Twitter.

Not only did they look like a team eager to prove last season was just  speed bump, it felt as if the Gators were sending a statement to the rest of the SEC in the process.

It came down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter, with Richardson leading the Gators to the game-winning touchdown with just over one minute remaining.

Richardson lead the Gators down the field and punched in his third rushing touchdown of the night, in the biggest moment possible. Led by redshirt senior LB Ventrell Miller, the Florida defense staved off the Utah comeback with 23 seconds remaining in the game.

After leading his team down the field, Cameron Rising had the Utes setup inside the Gators 20-yard line with a chance to not only tie it up, but also win the game.

On second down, from the Florida 15-yard line, Cameron Rising sat in the pocket looking for an open receiver, but was intercepted by Amari Burney, who immediately went to the ground in the end-zone.

The Gators had pulled off the upset and ‘The Swamp’ was losing its mind in the process.

This wasn’t just another SEC team beating a Pac-12 team, it was so much more than that. The Florida football program had gone through a massive renovation after firing Dan Mullen. The Gators needed someone to come in and change the culture, with the program heading in the wrong direction in 2021.

So, whether you look at this game as a massive upset or just another Pac-12 team choking in a big game, folks around the Florida facility will most certainly take this jolt in the arm.

Photo courtesy of Florida Gators’ Twitter.

We didn’t know how this team would look, especially with the lack of depth on both sides of the ball, but they found a way to win a game that past Florida teams would’ve choked away.

It appears Florida will potentially be a problem for some teams in 2022 and Kentucky is walking into a hornets nest next weekend in the SEC opener for both.

It didn’t take long for Billy Napier to get his first signature win in Gainesville, thanks to Anthony Richardson and a group of Gators who have bought into Napier’s game plan.

Written by Trey Wallace

Wallace started covering the SEC in 2012, as the conference landscape was beginning to change. Prior to his time in Knoxville, Wallace worked in Nashville for The Read Optional, where he first produced content that garnered national attention. His passion for sports is evident in his work and has led him to break some of college football’s biggest stories. His social media reach and natural podcast proficiency continue to make Wallace one of SEC’s most trusted sources.

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