The 2022 campaign was challenging for Florida, which limped to a 6-7 record in Billy Napier’s first year at the helm. The Gators suffered a few lowlights last year, most notably a 38-3 beatdown at the hands of Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Yet for all the mishaps, one game stood above the rest. Florida swept aside No. 7 Utah in the opening game of the season, vanquishing Cameron Rising and Co., 27-24. It was just the sort of result Napier needed, an indication that the program was on the up-and-up.Perhaps that can happen once more. The Gators and Utes will kick off their respective seasons on Thursday, a rush of blood to lift college football fans out of their summer-long stupor.
Rising is on the mend, felled by an ACL tear he suffered in January. But Utah is still tipped for greatness, widely considered the biggest threat to USC for the Pac-12 crown.Which means a win for Florida would go a long way to showcasing just what Napier and his collection of talented youngsters has to offer the college football world going forward.
The Sporting News is tracking live updates and highlights from Thursday’s Florida-Utah game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Follow below for live results and analysis as two of the nation’s biggest programs duel under the Salt Lake City moon.
Florida vs. Utah score
Florida vs. Utah live updates, highlights from Week 1 game
10:13 p.m.: Florida nearly gets itself back into the game, attempting to pounce after Johnson lost the ball on a screen play gone wrong. However, like anything that has happened to the team thus far, it falls right into Johnson’s candy apple-red hands.
On the bright side, the Gators did force a three-and-out. So, swings and roundabouts…
10:10 p.m.: …nevermind. Turnover on downs in the red zone. Because of course that had to happen. Ugh.
10:07 p.m.: Mertz starting to find a rhythm thus far. Maybe he can keep it up?
10:02 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN! No surprises here, huh? Barnes waltzes into the end zone without a hint of a defender in his vicinity. Florida just hasn’t came to play thus far.
Utah 24, Florida 3
9:59 p.m.: INTERCEPTION! It goes from bad to worst for the Gators. Mertz fires a pass into wideout Ricky Pearsall before he’s ready. The ball flicks into the air, eventually falling in defensive back Sione Maki’s arms. Now, the Utes are back in the red zone. Yikes.
9:55 p.m.: Even when the Gators do well, they don’t. Nearly get an interception but see Johnson’s errant throw fall harmlessly into the turf. Then, Eugene Wilson (bafflingly) takes the ball out when it was hurtling towards the end zone for a touchback. He ends up losing a yard AND takes a major hit in the process. Rough watch thus far.
9:53 p.m.: Utah back to the field for Q3. Let’s see if they can extend that lead.
|Passing||8-14, 113 yards||11-17, 159 yards|
|Time of possession||14:24||15:36|
End of second quarter: Utah 17, Florida 3
9:28 p.m.: Gators were oh so close to an interception. However, their defensive backs combined to bat away a lofted ball to Mikey Matthews. Looks like that will be the pertinent play as Utah prepares to send it back down the field via punt. That should set the stage for the end of the half.
9:26 p.m.: Two minute drill in effect for the Utes. Barnes attempting to sneak his cherry-clad teammates down the field.
9:22 p.m.: This Utah defense has been blanketing! Another three and out spotlighted by a crunching sack on Mertz. The Gators just can’t get going.
9:17 p.m.: FIELD GOAL! The Utes keep marching in! Utah bags another three points after Barnes and Johnson take them down the field. It could have been so much more, however: between an overthrown WR pass and a Mycah Pittman drop on third down — with acres of green grass in front of him — that lead could have gotten even more swollen.
Utah 17, Florida 3
9:13 p.m.: The Utes continue to find success with this two-prong attack. Barnes and Johnson are keeping the Gators defense on their toes. Moving down the field once more with swiftness. They’re already at Florida’s 30-yard line.
8:59 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN! This quarterback-by-committee decision has gone swimmingly for Utah so far. First, Barnes tosses a 70-yard heater for the opening score of the campaign. Then, Nate Johnson finds the promised land with an impressive scamper down the sideline. Things are going swimmingly for Utah.
8:55 p.m.: One of the strangest penalties you’ll ever see just occurred in this game. The Gators were docked some yardage after being found to have not one but two players on the field with the same number. Can’t say I’ve seen that call before.
Utah 14, Florida 3
8:50 p.m.: Things are starting to slow down for the Gators. An impressive drive ends with a shanked field goal. The play before, the Gators just got away with a lost fumble, which trickled out of play after a crunching hit from Utah.
End of first quarter: Utah 7, Florida 3
8:40 p.m.: First frame of the season ends with relative ease. Close game so far. Utah looking the stronger side through 15, but a good flourish by the Gators to end the quarter.
8:32 p.m.: FIELD GOAL! For the first time tonight, the Gators are in motion. A couple impressive gains helps bring Florida down the field, with Graham Mertz showcasing his lively arm on completions of 37 and 17 yards, respectively. Drive ends with kicker Adam Mihalek splitting the goalposts from 32 yards out.
8:25 p.m.: Lots of fluid ball movement coming from Utah thus far. Barnes has looked a revelation, slinging the ball left and right with relative ease. But just as the ball approached midfield, that Verse-led defense firmed up. Florida’s defensive line stuffs Jaylon Glover’s short-yardage attempt on third down, sending the ball back to the Gators. Perhaps they can find their footing on their third attempt.
8:18 p.m.: Florida fails to make much of anything on its opening possession, booting the ball back to Utah in drive No. 2. At least they pinned the Utes in the coffin corner.
8:15 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN! Utah opens the game with fireworks! On the first play from scrimmage, Barnes finds Money Parks for a 70-yard score. What a start to the campaign!
Utah 7, Florida 0
8:13 p.m.: The Utes win the first battle, successfully forcing a three-and-out against their southeast counterparts. Now, time to see what Barnes and Co. has in store.
8:10 p.m.: The Gators receive the kickoff! College football Week 1 is officially a go!
8:00 p.m.: Kickoff is on the horizon. The Utes are looking to establish themselves as a legitimate College Football Playoff threat. Crowd is rocking here at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
7:20 p.m.: About 40 minutes from kickoff. Just a reminder: it’s Bryson Barnes who is getting the start tonight for the Utes. He is replacing Utah starter Cameron Rising, who is still on the mend after tearing his ACL in the Utes’ bowl game last year.
How to watch Florida vs. Utah
- Date: Thursday, Aug. 31
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- Location: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City
- TV channel: ESPN
- Live stream: ESPN+, Fubo
Florida vs. Utah will be aired on ESPN in Week 1. The network will broadcast the game from Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City beginning at 6 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET).
Those seeking a streaming option can turn to ESPN+ or Fubo, which offers a free trial to new users.