Gator football team falls apart in the season opener at No. 14 Utah, 24-11

The Gators had a total of 13 rushing yards versus the Utes defense
Utah cornerback Tao Johnson (15) tackles Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (1) during the...
Utah cornerback Tao Johnson (15) tackles Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (1) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)(Rick Bowmer | AP)
Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 1:13 AM EDT
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SALT LAKE CITY, UT. (WCJB) - The (0-1) Gators had a rough road trip in Salt Lake City, as Florida dropped their season opener, 24 to 11 to the (1-0) Utes.

On their first play, Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes threw it deep down the left side of the field to a wide-open Money Parks for a 70-yard touchdown, 7-0.

Florida went down the field twice and set themselves up for a touchdown but only scored three points. The Gators made too many mental mistakes.

In the first half, the Gators defense stopped Utah’s offense on three straight drives. However, Florida is penalized for too many men on the field, a five-yard penalty on a punt return that gave the Utes new life. Utah capitalized with a 27-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Nate Johnson, 14-3 Utah.

It was 17-3 at halftime, Utah outgained Florida in total yards, 232-132.

In the third quarter, quarterback Graham Mertz threw a brutal interception deep in his territory to Utah safety Siona Vaki. Barnes scored the Utes third and final touchdown of the evening off a five-yard scamper for the score, 24-3.

Early in the fourth quarter, Florida scored their first touchdown of the year after Mertz found Caleb Douglas in the left side of the endzone for a 19-yard touchdown. The Gators scored again off the two-point conversion.

But what is the most surprising thing is the Gators ran 21 times for 13 yards. Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne combined for 34 yards on eight carries.

In his Gators debut, Mertz was 31 for 44, 333 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. However, the Wisconsin transfer is sacked five times.

Head coach Billy Napier is 1-6 for games played outside the state of Florida.

The Gators have nine days to prepare for their home opener against McNeese State and welcome SEC rival Tennessee to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 18th.

Florida starts the season at 0-1.

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