Three things we learned during the Gators’ 29-26 last-minute win against No. 7 Utah.
1. Enjoy Anthony Richardson while he’s here.
Richardson needed one game to effectively confirm 2022 will be his final season at Florida. The redshirt sophomore’s physical skills and potential are next level.
“He’s going to get his,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said, referring to Richardson’s future NFL riches. “He’s 6-4, 230 and runs like a 4.3. He’s a terrific player.”
Richardson was a difference-maker, show-stopper and crowd pleaser Saturday night in the sold-out Swamp.
The 20-year-old’s athleticism, arm strength, playmaking and competitiveness were at times something to behold.
Fans better soak it all in.
NFL scouts frequented Florida practices in August and attended the Utah game to watch Richardson, who is viewed by some as a top-10 pick. Saturday night reinforced Richardson’s case.
The play of a highlight-filled night was a 2-point conversion featuring a pump-fake of former Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate, then a subsequent spin move and sprint past another defender before Richardson fired a strike to Ja’Quavion Fraziers in corner of the end zone.
“Just trying to make something happen and I guess it worked,” Richardson said.
Richardson’s nonchalance does not erase self-doubt and self-awareness.
“The first few drives I messed up on a couple things, forgot some motions. I was a little jittery,” he said. “It was definitely fun though. The first start here in The Swamp. Second career start.
“I was definitely in my head a little bit.”
Richardson finished with 168 yards passing, 106 rushing and 3 scores, yet remains a work in progress.
He could use some touch on his shorter throws and better overall accuracy. Durability is a concern.
When on the field, though, Richardson makes it look easy while making it easier on everyone around him.
“My wife could call plays with that guy at quarterback,” Napier said.
2. Model of efficiency.
A holding penalty to kick off the Napier Era was an inauspicious start for a coach who loathes yellow flags. Another holding call later on a kickoff return paved the way for a Utah field goal.
Generally, though, Napier’s Gators ran a tight, smooth operation able to capitalize on opportunities.
Florida was 3-of-3 in the red zone, 7 of 12 on third down and 2 of 2 on fourth down, each conversion setting up a touchdown. Utah scored on 4 of 6 red-zone trips, but two of those were field goals.
The Gators made a goal-line stand on the opening drive of the third quarter after Utah drove 71 yards to the Florida 1. The game ended with QB Cam Rising’s end-zone interception from the Florida 6 with 18 seconds to go.
“We scored touchdowns in the red zone, they didn’t,” Napier said. “That’s the difference in the game.”
The Gators’ efficiency helped them erase three leads by Utah with touchdowns.
3. Swamp music.
Florida’s home-field advantage has been considered among the best in college for decades, dating to the days of Steve Spurrier, who was 68-5 at home.
Lately, the Swamp has too often lived off its reputation. Sellouts have been infrequent, crowd energy inconsistent and the intimidation factor at times a non-factor.
Saturday night was the latest reminder of the power and influence a full-throated Florida Field can exert on an opponent.
Gainesville’s heat and humidity were going to test a team the altitude of the Wasatch Range. Utha’s appRising and All-Pac-12 cornerback JaTravis Broughton each vomited.
A sellout crowd of 90,779, the most-ever for a home opener, turned up the volume with the game hanging in the balance.
After a penalty free first half, the Utes committed two false starts in the second half. Neither proved costly. But with the game on the line and Utah in the cacophonous north end zone, Rising threw the game-ending pick — the first key miscue on an other impressive night featuring 307 yards of total offense.
With a chance to build on Saturday night’s upset win, expect Florida fans to be front and center again when No. 20 Kentucky visits Saturday night.