Florida vs. Utah final score, highlights: No. 14 Utes down Gators as two-QB approach proves vital | Sporting News (2024)

No single man could replace the production of Utah's venerable starting quarterback, Cameron Rising. And, fortunately for Utes fans, no single man had to, either.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham got creative with his play-calling on Thursday, handing the reins to his offense to inexperienced hurlers Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson for the No. 14 Utes' season opener against Florida. It turned out to be an inspired choice, with Barnes providing the firepower and Johnson showcasing slick skills on the run to keep the Gators defense in flux.

All of that deception proved valuable as Whittingham's squad cruised to victory over their southeastern counterparts, vanquishing Billy Napier's Florida 24-11.

The Utes barely missed a beat without Rising, carving their way through that gaping Gators defense through the air and on the ground. It started from the opening salvo: Barnes hit Money Parks right in the numbers for a 70-yard score on their first play from scrimmage.

And although Florida huffed and puffed, they just couldn't string together enough positive possessions to make a dent in the scoreboard. Johnson found the end zone soon after, waltzing down the right sideline in a 19-yard dash. Barnes followed his lead in the third, finding the promised land with his own daring escapade.

And Florida just couldn't cope. Graham Mertz struggled in his first game in Gator regalia. Penalties were a regular occurrence, more often than not coming at increasingly inopportune times for the boys in white, orange and blue. In total, Napier's side just looked ragged; not all that surprising given that it was the first game of the year, but certainly a disappointment nonetheless.

MORE:Watch Florida vs. Utah live with Fubo (free trial)

The Sporting News tracked live updates and highlights from Thursday's Florida-Utah game at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Check out below for live results and analysis as two of the nation's biggest programs dueled underneath the Salt Lake City moon.

Florida vs. Utah score


Floridavs. Utah live updates, highlights from Week 1game

First downs1713
Third downs1-133-12
Fourth downs2-50-0
Total yards346270
Passing31-44, 333 yards15-23, 165 yards
Rushing att-yards13-2130-105
Timeof possession31:5628:04

End of game: Utah 24, Florida 11

11:08 p.m.: TURNOVER ON DOWNS!The game ends as it started for the Gators. Bizarre play call with Mertz opting for a screen pass on fourth-and-long. The ball is batted away at the line and that will bring the game to a close. Just a frustrating performance for Florida.

11:04 p.m.:Pearsallnearlyfound pay dirt after leaving his marker in the dust with a double move. But the pressure flooded Mertz's pocket, forcing him into a quick throw. The ball sails over his wideout's head. And Utah lives to fight another day.

11:03 p.m.:Florida gets the first down on fourth! Clock still ticking, however. We're now well under three minutes left. Gators nearing the red zone.

11:01 p.m.:The Gators might be down to their last chance. 3rd and 9 from inside the 40. A little less than four minutes left in the game. It's put-up-or-shut-up time.

10:58 p.m.:Cole Becker's mammoth leg couldn't quite find the target from 55 out. That will give the Gators some decent field position to start the possession. A baffling choice from Kyle Whittingham, especially given the success punter Jack Bouwemeester has had throughout the night.

10:51 p.m.:Johnson opens Utah's drive with a bursting drive down the right side for 19 yards. His legs have been a real dizzying presence for the boys in white. Looks like the Utes are trying to salt the game away a bit.

10:47 p.m.:TOUCHDOWN!And would you look at that! The Gators make Utah pay on the very next play! Mertz sends a curveball up to Caleb Douglas, who outstretches his marker before ripping the ball from the heavens. What a score! Florida follows that up with a two-point conversion. Signs of life from the Gainesville bunch!

Utah 24, Florida 11

10:45 p.m.:The call is upheld! Could be a consequential decision if the Gators can whittle this lead away.

10:42 p.m.:Mertz sees his toss take a serious deflection at the line of scrimmage. Initially looks like quite the catch Montrell Jackson on fourth down. However, things are looking a bit murky as the officials are looking over the play on replay. We'll see what happens.

10:38 p.m.:Floridafinallyconverts on third down for the first time in the game. Better late than never.

Utah 24, Florida 3

10:30 p.m.:The quarter ended with much of the same. Florida huffing and puffing and the Utes controlling the tempo of the game. As you were...

10:13 p.m.:Floridanearlygets 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.

First-half stats

First downs510
Third downs0-62-7
Fourth downs0-00-0
Total yards132232
Passing8-14, 113 yards11-17, 159yards
Rushing att-yards13-1915-73
Timeof possession14:2415:36

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 Gatorsjustgot 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.

Florida vs. Utah final score, highlights: No. 14 Utes down Gators as two-QB approach proves vital | Sporting News (2024)
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