Utah, Florida Meeting For First Time In 45 Years

Sep 1, 2022, 10:00 AM | Updated: Sep 3, 2022, 4:15 pm

GAINESVILLE- The last time Utah and Florida played each other was 45 years ago in 1977. The Utes lost 38-29 in that contest. Since that first and only meeting, Utah has had a bit of a glow-up “busting” the BCS twice, including walloping fellow SEC conference-mate Alabama 31-17 and earning their way into a Power Five conference. This will be the first time Florida has played a Pac-12 team since 1989 (33 years ago) against Washington in the Freedom Bowl where they lost 34-7.

Most expect this meeting to go a little differently than the last one. Utah is ranked #7 in the country ahead of their season opener against the Gators who are in the process of breaking in a new head coach. Make no mistakes, this Florida team is talented enough to upset the Utes if opportunity presents itself, but if Kyle Whittingham and his crew continue the trajectory they were on in 2021 they should be able to take care of business.


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Breaking Down The Gators

Last season was underwhelming for Florida going 6-7 despite the talent they possessed. It resulted in former head coach Dan Mullen being fired and new head coach Billy Napier being brought on to right the ship. Napier spent four seasons as Louisiana’s head coach and racked up a  win/loss record of 40-12 with four consecutive West Division Titles in the Sun Belt Conference, and two Sun Belt Titles- one shared in 2020, and one out-right in 2021.

Florida is returning 13 total starters from last season’s team, six on offense and seven on defense. They have 43 Lettermen players returning in 2022.

Quarterback Anthony Richardson will be one to keep eyes on in Saturday’s contest with Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham noting his true dual-threat abilities at the position during his Monday press conference. Richardson played in five games last season for the Gators completing 38 passes on 64 attempts for 529 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also rushed 51 times for 401 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per carry and added three more touchdowns.

Napier has said Florida plans to try and establish the run in their match-up with Utah, making Nay’Quan Wright someone to watch Saturday night. Last season for the Gators he ran 76 times for 326 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and one touchdown. Wright will also most likely be joined by Montrell Johnson who followed Napier from Louisiana. Last year Johnson was good for 162 carries for 838 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns.

In the passing game, ASU transfer Ricky Pearsall has been receiving lots of praise for the Gators and could be a factor Saturday night. With the Sun Devils last season, Pearsall had 48 receptions for 580 yards and averaged 12.1 yards per catch. Pearsall had four touchdowns at ASU.

Defensively, Florida brings nose tackle Gervon Dexter into the mix. Dexter is a five-star recruit and an absolute load at 6’6″ and 313 pounds. In 2021 he was responsible for 50 total tackles, 20 solo, 30 assisted, 2.5 sacks, and two fumble recoveries.

In the defensive backfield, cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. could be a problem at 6’1″ and 198 pounds. Last season for the Gators he had 13 tackles- two of which were for a loss, an interception and four passes defended.

Finally, at linebacker, Florida will have Ventrell Miller back after being lost for the 2021 season. Before that Miller was a monster on the field credited with 166 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and six passes defended between 2018-2020.

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