by Brendan Butterfield
The First Half
#7 Ranked University of Utah went down to Gainesville to take on the University of Florida as college football kicked off week one. Ute and Gator fans alike filled up the Swamp for a highly anticipated matchup. The attendance reflected it, as Ben Hill Griffin stadium had its largest opening day crowd in school history a total of 90,799 fans.
A promising first drive for The Gators went up in flames as they fumbled deep in Ute territory. The Utes took advantage and were able to get down to the red zone to give the offense a terrific field position. Rising made them pay as he found Tight End Brant Kuithe for their first touchdown of the year.
Florida was able to tighten things up and went right back down the field and scored with a long fourteen-play sixty 63-yard drive. The Gators responded well and after a 45-yard run from Anthony Richardson, which gave them a 14-13 lead heading into halftime.
Despite their first drive resulting in a touchdown, the Utes struggled on offense the rest of the first half. They managed to put up six points on two field goals, but their inability to finish off drives would come back to haunt them.
The Utes were able to reclaim the lead late in the third after an impressive 7-yard score from Micah Bernard. Florida and Utah traded haymakers in the fourth quarter as it was a back-and-forth affair. Richardson scampered into the endzone on a quarterback keeper to retake the lead with 1:25 remaining in the game.
Rising methodically led the Utes down the field all the way down to the red zone. After a tough drive in one of the most hostile and rowdy environments in the country, it seemed as if the Utes would rise to the occasion this time around. The Gators stood strong though, as linebacker Amari Burney picked off Rising’s pass in the end zone, sealing the game.
While the Gators were able to start the Napier era with a program rejuvenating win, the Utes once again fall just short of collegiate blue blood. The Utes’ odds of making the playoff have certainly shrunk, but another Rose bowl bid is still very much on the table. Looking back to last year, the Utes were able to overcome their shaky 1-2 start and still play their way to their first-ever PAC 12 Championship and Rose bowl bid.
The Utes will look to bounce back next week as they take on Southern Utah University at Rice Eccles Stadium on September 10th at 11:30 am.
Featured image courtesy Scott G Winterton, Deseret News