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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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No. 14 Utah Football Routs Florida in Home Opener

Multiple players on both sides of the ball were unavailable for the Utes, but the team stepped up to open the season with a solid win.
Xiangyao Tang
The Utah Utes light the U after defeating Florida Gators at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday, Aug.31, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


After a second straight Pac-12 championship, University of Utah football kicked off the 2023 season in the same fashion as last year, against Florida. After a heartbreaking 26-29 loss in Gainesville last year, the No. 14 Utes looked to redeem themselves at home. 


Utah won the coin toss, deferring the ball and kicking to Florida to start the game. A false start for Florida on just the third down of the game set up a third-and-6 scenario for the Gators. The Utes would get a strong stop, setting the offense up less than two minutes into the game. 

Utah’s first offensive play was extremely aggressive, and it paid off. From the 30-yard line, Bryson Barnes delivered the first touchdown of the season, a 70-yard pass to Money Parks

Florida’s next drive would end the same as their first, an incomplete pass on a long third down, failing to get a first down on both drives. A pair of false starts set Utah back on their next drive, but Barnes delivered back-to-back first downs, moving the Utes up to their 41-yard line. But Utah would be forced to punt. 

Florida got their spot on the board with a field goal, though Utah wasn’t able to score on the next drive and the quarter ended with the Gators sitting at the 20-yard line.

Making a play on the fourth-and-1, the Gators had a false start and missed a field goal on the next play. Nate Johnson came in for Barnes and immediately made his mark, getting a 27-yard rushing touchdown to bring the score to 14-3.

Utah quarterback Nate Johnson (13) celebrates after a touch down in the game versus Florida Gators at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Xiangyao Tang)

“This guy’s got another dimension to him,” Barnes said of Johnson after the game. “We’re a dynamic duo. If he’s in, I’m out, if I’m in, he’s out, and we just feed off each other.”

Florida had another opportunity to punt, before the ball spun out at the 40-yard line. Devaughn Vele threw a ball to Micah Bernard as he raced for the end zone, but the ball grazed his fingertips and hit the ground just out of reach. Cole Becker took an impressive 51-yard field goal to push the Utes even further ahead, 17-3.

Coming into the second half, Barnes snuck into the end zone with a touchdown from the 5-yard line, followed by a good PAT to widen the gap to 24-3

Florida had a turnover-on-downs just shy of four minutes to go in the third quarter and got as far as the 25-yard line before the quarter came to a close.

The fourth quarter saw some dramatics with Florida’s Graham Mertz completing a pass to Ricky Pearsall, which was threatened to be overturned before a review confirmed the play. Florida wide receiver Caleb Douglas snagged a 19-yard touchdown with help from Mertz, after which the Gators sought the 2-point conversion to bump it up to 24-11. The final whistle blew shortly after, handing the Utes their first win of the season.


Utah brought energy from the very first play, the incredible 70-yard touchdown pass from Barnes to Parks in what would be Utah’s longest play of the game.

Johnson’s appearance early in the second quarter looked like a breath of fresh air for the run game, helping Bernard find a 13-yard run. Johnson added his own 27-yard run for a touchdown and a 19-yard rush in the fourth quarter.

On the defensive side, Cole Bishop made his presence known across the field. Bishop totaled nine solo tackles, a forced fumble, and a sack.

“Defense was suffocating,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said after the game. “Defense was the storyline of the game.”

With 53,644 in attendance, an all-time record at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Utes only gave Florida 13 rushing yards on 21 attempts. Utah finished with 270 yards, and Florida finished with 346, 333 of which were passing yards.

Multiple players on offense and defense were unavailable today, but the team stepped up to get the 24-11 win. It wasn’t the best game from the Utes, but room to improve after a commanding win is never a bad sign.

The Utes will now head on the road to face Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The game will take place at 10:00 a.m. MDT on Sept. 9.


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About the Contributors
Abbey Thomas, Assistant Sports Editor
Abbey Thomas started at the Daily Utah Chronicle in the fall of 2022 as a Sports Writer and is now Assistant Sports Editor for the desk. She is currently studying Cultural Anthropology with a minor in history and hopes to pursue medicine one day. Abbey is a die-hard fan of Real Salt Lake and Manchester City, and loves to travel and practice photography in her free time!
Sean Overton, Sports Editor
Sean Overton is the Editor of the Sports Desk. He is currently a junior and is majoring in Business Administration with plans to attend law school.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

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