Florida coach Billy Napier looks at the scoreboard during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Utah on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Gators Fail to Execute in Loss to Utah

Florida Gators football kicked off Thursday night against No. 14 Utah in what proved to be a less than ideal season opener for Florida. With Utah missing starting quarterback Cameron Rising, the Utes were still able to take down the Gators in a 24-11 win. Florida was without starting center Kingsley Eguakun, as he is recovering from a lower-body injury. The Gators failed to execute on numerous key plays and made costly mistakes throughout the contest.


While the Gators did not leave with the outcome they wanted, there are some positives to look at. As a team, the Gators had more total yards than Utah, completely turning the game around from an offensive and defensive standpoint in the second half. The Gators also led in time of possession with 31:52 total. From an individual standpoint, Shemar James led the team in tackles with 13 total. Additionally, wide receiver Ricky Pearsall led the team in receiving yards with 92 yards on eight receptions. Caleb Douglas hauled in Florida’s lone touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Under center, quarterback Graham Mertz threw for 333 yards and completed 31 of his 44 passes.  Head coach Billy Napier gave his thoughts on his new starting quarterback.


The theme of last night’s game was execution. While Florida led the game in total yards and time of possession, they failed to put points on the board. In four red zone trips, Florida came away with just 11 points, struggling to convert major plays in the game.

Two crucial plays occurred when Florida missed a field goal early in the second quarter and when the team had two players with the same number on the field on a punt return. Utah would later score on this same drive. Moving forward, Florida has to be more disciplined. The Gators committed nine penalties for 46 yards. Additionally, Florida has to execute on third down. Florida was just 1-for-13 on third down with multiple penalties causing long third downs.

Additionally, the run game was almost nonexistent in this game. Trevor Etienne led the team in rushing with 7 carries for 25 yards. Quarterback Graham Mertz spoke about what he feels he needs to see from this team.

Moving Foward

The Gators are ready to put this game behind them as they focus on the rest of the season. With a huge matchup coming up against Tennessee in Week 3, there is a lot to improve upon to get ready to take on the Volunteers. With time to look at the tape, Florida is ready to erase this game from their mind as SEC play approaches. Florida will need to be better in the run game, limit the penalties and execute on third down if they plan on bouncing back from this rough start. Napier gave his thoughts on how his teams plans to move on.

Florida will be back in action in The Swamp against McNeese State on Sept. 9.

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