While Week 1 of the college football season often features some big time matchups, this year was notable because of a few big games happening in non-neutral site kickoff games. The headliner was No. 5 Notre Dame going to Columbus to play No. 2 Ohio State, but the seventh-ranked Utah Utes made a rare cross-country journey to face the Florida Gators in The Swamp.
Despite Florida being unranked, Utah entered as just a three-point favorite and the game proved to be the kind of tight back-and-forth affair the oddsmakers predicted with the short spread. The Gators led by one at the half, but found themselves twice facing a deficit in the fourth quarter, but on each occasion they were able to turn to their young star QB Anthony Richardson to get the job done.
With under 90 seconds left in the game, Richardson pulled the ball on an option keeper and walked into the end zone to push the Gators back up by three, with Utah holding all three timeouts.
Utah would nearly see their comeback thwarted at midfield, when a Florida defender dropped into coverage and had the ball hit him in the hands, only to drop it. From there, it seemed the Utes might take advantage of that break as they marched inside the 10 where it seemed, at worst, we were headed to overtime.
However, on second and goal, Cam Rising tried to fit a ball in low to a receiver but got jumped by a diving Amari Burney, who held onto the pick this time for Florida and sent The Swamp into pandemonium.
It’s a huge win for Florida to open the season and gives new head coach Billy Napier a signature win under his belt before even heading into conference play. For Utah, it’s a gutting loss after having control of the game on a few occasions, but being unable to come up with the crucial stop in the fourth quarter they needed. It also is a big blow to the Pac-12’s hopes for a Playoff berth, as Utah entered the season as the conference favorites, and still are, but with a loss like this the margin for error to make the top-4 is incredibly thin.