TAKEAWAYS: No. 7 Utah Falls to Florida
The University of Utah faced a difficult challenge for their first game of the 2022 season, heading to The Swamp to face the Florida Gators. The no. 7 Utes fell short in the closing minute of what was a close battle throughout. Unfortunately for Utah, the Gators made the plays when they needed to and the Utes left several points on the field.
Here are the takeaways to the Utes 29-26 defeat:
The Utah offense operates better in a hurry-up approach
Look, there are plenty of things to point out where the offense struggled. Cam Rising had his moments of struggles—the interception being un-Rising like—but he also made big plays to give the offense every opportunity.
Did he rely on Kuithe too much? Possibly. At first glance, it seemed everyone else struggled to get open. The offensive struggles can also be squarely placed on offensive coordinator Andy Lundwig’s shoulders. The Utes had opportunity and blew them, like Tavion’s two rough carries at the goal line before the turnover on downs. However, it seemed as though the offense lacked creativity.
Furthermore, Rising and the guys operate much better in a hurry-up approach, as evidenced by the last drive before the interception. It seemed to open up a lot more options, as Dalton Kincaid was finally freed up and Devaughn Vele began to get involved.
Lastly, props to the offensive line. They were a big-time strength last night, despite the outcome.
The talk of a relentless attack by the defensive line should be reevaluated
Well, that was ugly. The defensive line looked all out of sorts against the Gators. The depth looked irrelevant and the pursuit was a jumbled mess. Van Fillinger bit inside frequently and they also had success against Jonah Elliss. However, Elliss also deserves praise for the early forced on Florida’s first drive.
Minus the 2021 season, Utah has long been vulnerable to mobile quarterbacks that can hit the outside edge. Tonight was no different. Even the defensive tackle were gashed with Florida running creative misdirection plays.
Aside from Cole Bishop, the secondary didn’t play great, but they were left vulnerable by the defensive line’s shortcomings and Richardson’s ability to extend plays.
The defensive struggles were largely on the front seven.
The jury is still out on the new starting linebacker group
We knew the void left by Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell would be big, and opening on the road with a new crew of linebackers in SEC country is as big of a task as there is, but Utah's linebackers playmaking was noticeably missing against Florida.
While the defensive line did not play their best to create holes for the 'backers, the linebackers were relatively quiet in the run game and noticeably lacking on the second level of defense, as Florida rushed for 272 yards on 39 attempts (7.0 yards per carry).
Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson put on a show, rushing for 104 yards and three touchdowns to go with a spinning fake pass before finding his receiver alone in the corner of the end zone. Richardson was a threat on every play, and backs Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson combined for 130 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown. The Utah linebackers will develop into great players in their own right, but tonight was a reminder of just how difficult it is to be a playmaker at linebacker in the Utah defensive system.
The Utes need your support, there’s still a Pac-12 title to defend
There’s no way to put it, the outcome was a disappointment after the amazing 2022 season and the offseason build-up. They played a quality team that showed Utah’s shortcomings, which they’ll work to fix immediately. They still have a Pac-12 title to defend.
By the end of the season, this loss will still sting, but the Gator will continue to show that they’re a damn good football team.
The Southern Utah Thunderbirds will face a pissed off Utah team. Kickoff is at 11:30am. The Utes will look to regain some lost confidence and get back in a groove, after the heartbreaking last minute defeat to the Gators.