Chomp: Anthony Richardson leads Florida to upset of No. 7 Utah to kick off Billy Napier era

Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) runs through the end zone after rushing for a 45-yard touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Utah, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

This story first appeared in Chomp, our Gators football newsletter. Subscribe here.

Hello, Gator Nation!

College football is BACK, and it feels so good. But you know what feels even better? The Gators getting a win against a top-10 team to kick off the new season and the Billy Napier era at Florida.

A big shoutout to all the Florida fans who had The Swamp rocking on Saturday night! Attendance was announced at 90,799 — the largest opening crowd in school history and the 10th biggest at home. There’s no doubt that environment played a role in the outcome of the game.

“The crowd definitely brought the energy. They picked the team up,” quarterback Anthony Richardson, who shined in the home opener, said in a thank you video to the fans from Napier and the players.

And if you couldn’t make it, thank you for the support for the Gators!

🥳 Florida upsets Utah

The underdog Gators upset No. 7 Utah 29-26 in a thrilling matchup that came down to the final seconds and provided promising glimpses of what’s ahead for this Florida team.

It appears Florida won’t be in rebuilding mode for long under Napier, as they were able to take down the defending Pac-12 champion that has a roster filled with talent and experience.

“I think I told one of our guys during the game ‘Can you believe they pay us to do this?’” Napier said at a news conference following the game. “This group’s got fight in them. I think I’ve said that publicly. That’s one thing about our team. They compete. I’ve got to slow them down sometimes. I can remember a good friend of mine, when we took the job, who had worked here before, he said, ‘The kids at Florida are the most competitive kids that I’ve been around.’ I would agree with them.”

Richardson stole the show, dazzling fans with playmaking ability. He rushed for two touchdowns in the first half, including a 45-yard scamper to the goal line. But Richardson’s best play of the game came early in the fourth quarter. Running back Montrell Johnson Jr. scored on a 14-yard cutback run and then Richardson converted the two-point conversion when he juked former Florida teammate Mohamoud Diabate with a pump fake and then sprinted right by fellow Utah linebacker Lander Barton before throwing a strike to wide receiver Ja’Quavion Fraziers, who was waiting in the back of the end zone.

“I did that in practice a few weeks ago. That wasn’t my first time ever doing it. Just tried to make something happen. I guess it worked. I am glad it worked,” said Richardson, who enters the year as a Heisman Trophy hopeful.

READ MORE: Richardson shines in Napier’s debut as Gators upset No. 7 Utah 29-26 | Burney seals Florida’s win vs Utah

As the Utes were marching down the field at the end, they looked poised to score and take the lead without any time left on the clock. But then linebacker Amari Burney sealed the victory for the Gators by intercepting Cam Rising’s second-down pass into the end zone with 17 seconds left.

“Someone had to make a play,” Burney said. “It happened to be me.”

Napier described Burney as “one of my favorite players on the team.”

“He’s really played like 1,600 snaps here, and I call him an old man all the time. We are thankful for Amari. He’s got character. He’s a great communicator. He makes other players around him better. He’s a guy who really has risen to the occasion, in terms of that position and what we need from that position,” Napier said. “That’s one of the things that I was describing earlier. To see that guy make a play, I think that’s a special moment for that locker room because they love Amari Burney. For that guy to make a play, I think that’s pretty special.”

Napier also had complimentary words to say about Richardson, who ran 11 times for 106 yards, completed 17 of 24 passes for 168 yards and played turnover-free football in his first home start.

“The one thing I can tell you about Anthony [Richardson] is that he is sitting in that locker room right now and he is thinking about, probably, the six or eight plays that he could have done a little bit better. That’s what I love about him. He is very critical of himself. He is an unbelievable competitor. We all know the kid has got the physical talent. We’ve known that for a long time, but what’s impressed me is his work ethic, his discipline, his detail. He’s a good teammate. He’s a great example. He’s selfless. This kid has been in the spotlight for a long time. You may worry that that would affect him. I think that’s made him a better person. I think he, being from Gainesville, I think he realizes the platform and the opportunity of the example that he can set in the building and also in our community. Anthony’s going to stay humble. That’s his first start in the Swamp. He’s going to continue to improve,” Napier said. “I’m certainly thankful we got him.”

This was the Gators’ 33rd consecutive win in home season openers — the longest current streak in the nation. And Florida is now 3-0 against ranked opponents in The Swamp in season openers.

In the latest episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters recaps the huge win that has the nation buzzing.

🐊 Gators look to defeat another ranked team at home

Now the focus turns to the Gators’ next game against another ranked team.

Florida (1-0) will host No. 20 Kentucky (1-0) on Saturday in its second straight matchup under the lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field and in both teams’ Southeastern Conference opener.

Napier said at a news conference Monday that the Gators “have the best of both worlds” as they looked the build off their first win of the season.

“I think we’ve got some momentum,” he said. “But we also have a team that is very self-aware. I think we’ve got a smart group. I think they understand good football. They watched the tape. They know that they can do better.”

Kentucky vs. Florida

The Wildcats are coming off a 37-13 home victory over Miami (Ohio).

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Coach [Mark] Stoops and what he’s been able to do there, just the consistency, their improvement as a program. To win 10 games last year — I mean, his teams, I’ve always had a lot of respect for his teams because I think they’re sound,” Napier said of his team’s next opponent. “I think they know who they are on offense, defense and special teams. I see a good set of fundamentals in all three phases, and they do a good job of evaluating players, and they’ve got some height, length, and speed. They have some good players that maybe weren’t highly regarded, but they’re just as good as anybody in the country. This is a good developmental program that I have nothing but respect for. So you’ve got to beat Kentucky. They’re going to make you beat them.

“I think they’re a well-coached team, and I’ve got a lot of respect for the intangibles, the effort, the fundamentals. All the things that coaches respect, they do those things.”

The Gators are 53-19 against the Wildcats, including a 29-5 record at home. Florida has won 33 of the last 35 meetings in the series, including wins in 20 of the last 21 home matchups in The Swamp.

This is Florida’s first time playing a ranked Kentucky team since Oct. 20, 2007, when No. 14 Florida defeated No. 8 Kentucky 45-37 in Lexington. Florida is playing a ranked Kentucky team for the fourth time overall, owning a 2-1 record in those games (1977, 1998 and 2007).

Unlike last week’s game, despite going up against a ranked team, Florida is actually favored. According to FanDuel Sports, the Gators are currently a 5.5-point favorite over the Wildcats.

Saturday’s kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be on ESPN.

🟠🔵⚪ Uniforms schedule announced for entire season

As for what the Gators will be wearing on Saturday, Florida has already announced the uniform schedule for the rest of the season.

The Gators will stick with their traditional look, wearing orange helmets, blue jerseys and white bottoms this weekend.

You can see what they’ll be wearing for the rest of the 2022 regular season here.

✉️ Send us your Gators thoughts & questions

David and I want to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the Gators football program? Agree or disagree with something we’ve said? Let us know here, and we’ll share our responses to your questions.

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About the Author:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.