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Recapping the Florida Gators 29-26 win over Utah
5th September 2022 • GatorCountry.com - Your Florida Gators Podcast: Football, Recruiting & All University of Florida Athletics News • GatorCountry.com - The Insider Authority on Florida Gators Sports!
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GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we recap the Florida Gators' 29-26 win over Utah on Saturday night in the Swamp.

Andrew Spivey and Nick Marcinko break down how the Gators' offense looked behind Anthony Richardson and what they showed against the Utes.

Andrew and Nick also break down the defense and look at some things the Gators need to improve on going forward.

Transcripts

Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, back with Nick. Nick, what a game, man. What a game. Billy Napier and the Gators start off on a winning note, 29-26 victory over #7 Utah. A game that had it all. From the late second pick from Amari Burney to seal it. Anthony Richardson had his moments. You had some moments where you said, oh lord, here we go again. You had it in the game, and you expected it. Good game against Utah. Utah’s a good opponent. Fun game though, Nick.

Nick: Absolutely, Andrew. It was incredible being there in person. I know that you wish you were there, and I’m sorry that you weren’t, because it was insane. It was an insane asylum in the Swamp last night. Over 90,000 fans in the Swamp in attendance.

Andrew: A crowd for an opening game.

Nick: Absolutely. 10th largest crowd in the history. That’s something for sure. You mentioned this game, it had it all. Everything. The game was insane. There were six total lead changes. The largest lead of the game was 6 points by Utah. That was in the second quarter, and Utah was six yards away from winning. You can’t draw up a closer game, in my opinion.

You could probably pinpoint 50 plays that could have changed the outcome of that game, and that’s the beauty of college football. Sitting there and watching all these plays happen and thinking after the game, my friends were telling me, that could have changed the game. That could have changed the game. Yup. There were so many plays like that. You talk about what an environment that was last night, and I’m so glad that I was there.

Andrew: The goal-line stand in the third quarter. That was a big moment in the game where it looked like Utah was going to punch it in a couple times, and then they fumbled, and Florida came up with it. Ventrell Miller had a great play there. Then early on, if Montrell doesn’t fumble in the first quarter, set up a 25-yard drive for Utah to easily punch it in for their first score of the game on their first drive. You had your moments.

Listen, that’s what happens when you play a quality good opponent Game 1. We knew going into this game that this was going to be a tough game for Florida. Utah is a very physical, a very sound, and a good football team. Some people have them in the playoffs. Pac-12 champion last year. This was a team that let’s all remember wasn’t very good last year. This was a team that wasn’t physical at all last year. I saw an offensive line group that was head and shoulders better than it was last year.

Some of the depth problems that you and I talked about, it showed up. The defensive line was gassed. The defense was gassed. The depth at those two positions isn’t there. Guess what? It’s not going to be there all year. You’ve got to find a way to gut it out and win a ballgame. Unlike previous years, they found a way to win a ballgame, and they did. At the end of the day, the final score is 29-26. You won. Nobody cares how pretty it looked.

Nick: Absolutely. You nailed it when you said there were things that did not go the Gator’s way. We saw the defensive line got worked last night, especially in the second half. They were gassed. They got pushed around by Utah’s offensive line, and Utah’s offensive line played a hell of a game last night. I was thoroughly impressed with the work that they put out last night. They did not seem phased to me by the crowd, which is very impressive, because a lot of offensive lines will easily be phased, so that was very impressive.

I don’t believe that the Gators recorded a sack last night. Utah had a fantastic gameplan going into it. They weren’t going to let the Gators get to the quarterback. They had short crossing routes, tight end screens, and they ran the ball a lot. They knew that if we were going to get the quarterback, it was probably going to be a pretty easy victory for the Gators, but they did not let the Gators do that.

I was very impressed by Utah last night, but, like you said, the Gators found a way to get a victory, despite having a thin team, a thin depth chart. We didn’t see an incredible performance from our wide receivers. We didn’t see an incredible performance by the defensive line, yet the Gators still came out victorious, which I think speaks volumes to the coaching staff and the trust that this team has in the coaching staff. Trust was a big theme last night for me.

Andrew: Here’s the thing. I’ve said this before. For the record, I’ve got Covid. So, this would typically be a podcast that I would just be freaking bringing the energy with, because I love a freaking game where an offensive line can put a hat on a hat and whip the man in front of them’s ass. That’s just me being an old-school football coach, where you put a hat on a hat, and you knock the guy in front of you out. That’s exactly what this game was about.

This offensive line for Florida, O’Cyrus Torrence, Tarquin at times, Kingsley at times, Ethan White at times, Gouraige at times, all those guys. Keon Zipperer had a great game blocking. All of those guys hat on a hat, and when it was gut check time for this team, they were able to do that. They were able to push the line of scrimmage. 283 yards rushing for this team last night on Saturday night. An overall just physical football game that is a difference, and that’s what won the football game.

On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line at times played poorly in the second half. Gervon and Des, those guys, they were gassed. We knew going into the season the defensive line was going to be a question mark, is the best I can say. You knew you could count on Gervon, you could count on Jalen Lee, to give you minutes, but once those guys came out, what was going to happen? Big Des, he played. Again, he’s got to learn technique. He’s got to be better technique wise, but you knew that was going to be a problem. Some way or another, they found a way to win the ballgame.

Linebacker play, Ventrell played a heck of a ballgame. Amari, he had some mishaps in coverage, but I thought he played against the run really well. Shemar James I thought had a pretty good game. The concerning part to me was safety play, Nick. Rashad Torrence just didn’t have a good game. They’ve got to figure out a way. They’ve got to figure something out at safety, because safety is a liability, and teams that are going to throw the ball against you are going to pick on those two safeties.

Nick: I agree. How about Ventrell Miller? He played an incredible game. I know the Gators got ran on for the most part, but when the Gators made a good defensive stop against the run, it seemed like Ventrell Miller was in on every single play. He was flying around that field last night. I know he dropped that game winning interception, and I know he’s still feeling that this morning. I know how badly he wanted that one.

Andrew: That’s why he plays linebacker.

Nick: Yeah. That’s why he plays linebacker. But the most important thing was not that he dropped it. It was that he was in the position to make the play. He was in the right spot. He did all the right things but catch the ball. Turns out it didn’t matter, because his teammate and good bud Amari Burney ended up getting in the game winner. It all worked out in the end.

But the safety play has to improve. Part of run defense is the safeties. They need to be able to make the tackles in open field. Torrence struggled last night. He missed a lot of tackles, and that’s something you got to keep an eye on. I know last podcast we talked about McMillon and Kamari Wilson kind of backing up the safeties there. You wonder. Against Kentucky, do we see more of Kamari Wilson? Do we see more of Donovan McMillon? I don’t know. I think it opens up a spot.

Napier said all off season that these early season games are going to be competitions for playing time. There’s going to be a competition for playing time all year long. It could be time. It could be time that we see some more guys rotate in at safety. The most important thing is that the Gators found a way to win last night, despite these mishaps that we’re talking about.

Andrew: We’ll hit on some more positives here, before we get on some things that’s got to improve for sure. Anthony Richardson, he put the nation on notice last night. 17 of 24 for 168 yards. I say for the most part in the game, he had a couple passes where I said, man, dial it back a little bit, throw a changeup. You don’t need your fastball there. Dial it back. But for the most part, I thought he was efficient passing. I didn’t think he really put himself in very many risk opportunities there.

There was a couple of plays, especially in the first half, where he decided to run and get outside the pocket when if he’d have just waited another second or two, he had the receiver, the play come open. There was a play in particular, I think it was 3rd and 4, maybe on the second drive or the third drive, Nick, where he had Keon Zipperer coming open on an underneath route, and instead he took off and tried to run, and he didn’t get it. Listen, it’s first start for Anthony Richardson. First game in Billy Napier’s system. It’s going to get there, for sure. You nitpick that stuff, but his ability to escape the pocket, and he made the poor guy for Utah look foolish on the two-point conversion that he completed to Ja’Quavion.

Nick: Right. That play you’re talking about, where Zipperer was open coming across the field, he also had Marcus Burke on a deep post that wide open, but because he left the pocket, he couldn’t turn his body around to make that throw. Napier said after the game, Richardson had six to eight plays where he probably could have done things a little bit better, and I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment.

The most impressive thing to me about Richardson was the way he controlled the game last night. He had explosive plays at times, yes. Of course, he did. But just the way he controlled the game. I do think at the beginning he was a little bit nervous. He seemed a little bit impatient at times. I know Justin Shorter, there was a 3rd and 5, and Shorter ran a beautiful slant, and he was wide open, but Richardson was just too impatient, and he whipped the ball.

Andrew: That was a fastball. That was one of the fastballs that I was like, calm down.

Nick: If he had just waited just a half second, Shorter was going to be wide open, and there was not a safety over top. It could have went for a touchdown. But those are things that you got to understand that Richardson has not played a lot of football, and I think that’s what stands out to me about last night is he was so impressive just controlling the game. As the game went on, it seemed to me like he got more comfortable and comfortable and comfortable. That’s the kind of growth I wanted to see from him.

You know we’re going to see the explosive plays from Richardson. That was a given, but I wanted to see him control the game and really play with confidence, and I think as the game went on he grew as a quarterback, which I thought was very impressive. Those mistakes that he made earlier in the game and the jitters, that will all get worked out as the season goes on.

Andrew: There’s two plays for me, Nick, that showed me what Anthony Richardson is about. It’s two completely different plays. One was a positive play, and one turned out to just be a live for another down play. You may disagree with me. I know Anthony Richardson can make the spectacular plays. The long touchdown run in the 45-yard touchdown in the second quarter, we know Anthony Richardson can make that play. We know that. We’re accustomed to that. I’m not saying that it wasn’t special, because it was a great play.

There were two plays in particular. The 4th down play where there was nothing there, and he was able to get it in the fourth quarter to keep the drive alive. That play showed me a lot there. Then there was a play also on that drive where the play broke down. There was a backside corner blitz coming, and he threw the ball. He was able to escape pressure long enough, but then he just threw the ball away, instead of trying to force it into coverage, trying to make something happen that wasn’t there. He was able to get rid of the ball, live for another down. Listen, it’s okay. It’s okay to throw the ball away to live for another down. It’s much better throw the ball into the stands and have an incompletion on your stat sheet than an interception on your stat sheet.

Those two plays in particular was there. Here’s another one. No delay of game penalties. I thought that was key.

Nick: Absolutely. Richardson has said during the off season he’s put an emphasis on this. It took Richardson a long time to realize that he doesn’t have to be a superhero.

Andrew: Right.

Nick: Especially with this Gators team, when the strength of the team is the offensive line and the running backs. You don’t have to go out and make every play. Lean on your teammates. I think that’s exactly what he did last night. There was a 4th down play in the fourth quarter there where the Gators staff trusted him to drop back for a pass, but he realized there was nothing open, and he took off running, and he picked it up. I think those kind of things, just the overall trust that Napier has in Richardson, is what stood out to me last night. He only had three designed runs, I think.

Andrew: Right.

Nick: I think he only had three runs, and he ended up carrying the ball 11 times for 106 yards. So that means eight of his carries were improvised. I think the staff trusts him. If the play isn’t open, if you go through your reads and nothing’s there, take off running. Use your legs.

Andrew: It comes back to the message Napier’s had from Day 1. Players have to trust the staff, and the staff has to trust the players. They went through all of these different exercises where it’s to build trust. Billy Napier is a trust guy. He’s going to trust his guys to go out and make plays, and he’s going to allow that. Some people were questioning, he let the play clock run out in the fourth quarter, and if they don’t convert and get the 1st down there, then he blew it. He had enough confidence in his guys that he said, it’s going to be okay. We’re going to do this.

Think about it. Had he not ran that 25 seconds off, Utah’s probably running the ball into the endzone, instead of throwing the ball there, and it’s a different game. Listen, it could have bit him in the butt, very well could have, but the analytics, and I hate analytics most of the time, say that that’s the right play to do there. It’s a trust factor.

Go back to Montrell Johnson. Had the fumble. Went right back to him. Ended up being a big factor in the game. I think he’s shown people just how good of a back he was. You had those Miami fans saying, he’s a Sunbelt back. That ain’t no Sunbelt back, let me tell you.

Nick: Not at all.

Andrew: 12 carries for 75 yards. That’s a grown man carrying some big time Pac-12 linebackers on his back.

Nick: Yeah. He had a run in particular in the game that was a 3rd and 5, and he didn’t panic at all. They handed the ball off to him, and I think they handed it off to him probably because they planned to run the ball twice, use all four downs, but he stayed patient on the hole, and once he found the hole he exploded past the 1st down marker. He had an impressive game.

Back to just the trust that Napier has, and this offense in particular, that final drive. I know, Andrew, we’ve talked about this earlier this morning, but that final drive. You can probably speak on this a little bit more than I can, being a former football coach, but I don’t think it’s easy to go out there and tell your offense, there’s five minutes to go. We not only have to score, but I want you guys to tick the clock down. I don’t want Utah getting much time to go down there and score.

Napier said after the game he knew he had four plays. The whole team knew they had four plays to pick up the 1st down. You saw them utilize that. I think we had three 3rd down conversions and a 4th down conversion on that final drive.

Andrew: Yes.

Nick: Something along those lines. That right there, that’s impressive. I think most teams would go out there and just try to score just any way they could. Napier, obviously, that was his #1 priority was to score the football, but he knew that his Gator defense was tired. He had the awareness that Utah was moving the ball very easily, so he knew. He knew that the Gators had to get in the endzone, but he also knew that they had to tick some time off. I do not think that’s easy to do. To gameplan and script that, I think it’s very difficult, and the Gators ended up scoring with 1:25 left. Utah did end up going down the field, but thankfully Amari Burney made a big play there at the end.

Andrew: Here’s the thing. It’s tough to run the ball in those situations. You always have it in the back of mind, what happens if my offensive line doesn’t get the block, or whatever that may be. Let me throw the ball, because at least I have the option to run if it breaks down. If I run the ball, I don’t have the option. Credit to Napier. Credit to Rob Sale and Darnell Stapleton and the rest of the offensive staff. Listen, they have trust and faith in their offensive line that that’s where their money is going to be made. That’s where they’re going to win and lose games is by running the football, and he stuck to it.

Even the drive beforehand, where they went down and Montrell scored to make it, when they went up, and then got the two-point conversion before Utah scored. The last two drives of the game, he just ran the football. Confident there. He ran the football, and he ran it right at Utah for the most part.

A big thing that I thought was good was it was a collective unit on the offensive line of good blocking. The outside receivers were blocking as well. Had some good tight end blocks. For me, that was a big question mark. What tight end was going to really step up? I thought Keon Zipperer did a really good job there.

A guy we haven’t talked about at all is Etienne. What a playmaker, man. That kid. Good grief. His ability to cut on a dime. You give him an open field, good luck. Good luck.

Nick: I’ve seen it in practice this fall. Etienne is that guy. He’s a dog. It’s always different when the lights come on. Boy, he did not disappoint. His first carry I think went for 17 or 19, 17 yards?

Andrew: Something like that.

Nick: I think it was 19 yards, and then later in the game he had a 17-yard carry. Man, he can make plays. He had five carries for 64 yards in his Gators debut. That’s something.

Andrew: Did give us a heart attack.

Nick: Oh, he did. I was just about to speak on that. That final drive, where Etienne was in, Billy Napier had Trevor Etienne, true freshman, in his first game against a top ten team, in a game winning drive. He had him playing. He was the primary running back in that drive, and he did give us a heart attack. He fumbled, and thankfully jumped on it. Again, I think it speaks to trust. Billy Napier turned around and handed the ball right back off to Etienne. He didn’t disappoint. What a game from him, and we’re going to see a lot more of him this season. I can tell you that right now.

The Gators have three solid running backs. They’re going to go to them all the time. They all offer something different. That’s a special group. Nay’Quan Wright’s a little bit of an older guy, but Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne are going to be here for at least two more years, and that’s got to be really exciting.

Andrew: Yeah. Nay’Quan didn’t play bad at all. That’s the thing. Nay’Quan didn’t play bad at all. He had 10 carries for 39 yards, a lot of that in the first half. He didn’t play bad at all. I thought he played really well. They all offer something different, Nick, and that’s the big key. They all can do something different, and they all are accountable. If it’s fourth quarter, 4th and 1, you feel pretty good about any of them being on the field.

Nick: Absolutely.

Andrew: We’ll go to the defensive side of the ball real quick. We hit on it a little bit. I thought Princely played well in the game. I thought at times Gervon and Brenton Cox, they had a couple plays there. But it’s consistency with those two guys that I need to see more of. I need to see those two guys be more consistent there. I need to see setting the edge. Both of those guys have a problem with setting the edge, and it hurt them. Cam Rising I think had a 30-yard gain, 29 to be exact, gain because Gervon just didn’t set the edge. They’ve got to figure out a way to set the edge there.

I think that was a big message from Napier and Spencer is even when you’re tired, do your job. That was a problem for them in this game is that when they got tired they didn’t. Hopefully, more depth will continue to improve as the season goes on. I thought Tyreak Sapp and Justin Boone and Antwaun Powell, I thought played pretty good ball in the game as well. At corner, I thought Helm and Jason Marshall did what you needed them to do. They weren’t really tested a ton in the game. Safety play we talked about. Got to improve. It’s got to improve.

This Utah game for me is a little bit of a wash as far as the linebackers in coverage, because I think you will see as the season goes on on 3rd down more of the Burney-Shemar or Diwun Black-Shemar in the game there, so that they can cover the backs and the tight ends more, but with Utah they’re very multidimensional, where they can easily run the ball 3rd and 5, as they can throw the ball. So, you didn’t want to bring out Ventrell and Amari in that situation, and Utah took advantage of that. I think you will see going forward more of Shemar and Diwun Black in coverage there, and that’s a big key.

Definitely liked seeing Tre’Vez at nickel more than Jadarrius Perkins. Perkins still to me seems to make some silly mistakes at times.

Nick: I have not been a huge fan of Perkins since he’s arrived in Gainesville, but I will say he made a huge tackle there on the final drive of the game to keep the Utah wide receiver inbounds. That was an incredible tackle.

I thought the defensive line, I thought they were all right, especially the edge rushers. I think it’s tough to kind of grade the defensive ends and the edge rushers for this game, simply because Utah game planned around that. They knew that they had to get the ball out quickly. I think you saw at times Brenton Cox and Princely kind of pressure Cam Rising a little bit and get him out of the pocket, which is a good thing. Rising missed some passes last night, and that was due to the Gator’s defensive ends there.

I just think it’s tough to grade how they performed simply because of just the gameplan that Utah had. You look at their receiving stats. Their tight ends had nine catches for 105 yards.

Andrew: That dude’s a freak, by the way.

Nick: Burney said that that’s the best, him and Kincaid are the best two tight ends that they’ll face all year. They were very talented. The next most catches for Utah was five by the running back Micah Bernard. That just goes to show you that they had a gameplan, and they stuck to it. Like I said, I thought they were impressive all game long. They knew that we were going to have trouble. They knew that the Gators were going to have trouble covering those tight ends, especially because they were running the ball every single play. They knew that we had to keep Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney in the game.

But I agree. I think in future opponents I think we will see more of the Shemar James-Diwun Black kind of on 3rd down just to be in coverage and help us out there a lot.

Andrew: Here’s the thing. If we were talking about this being Southwestern Dakota State of East West whatever, if we were talking about Mercer or whatever it may be that they played, it would be a whole different ballgame talking about this defensive line. This is a Utah team that is going to run the football against most everybody they play. That’s their motto. That’s their gameplan, and they’re good enough to do that.

So while, yes, there is a lot of improvement needed on the defense, there’s nothing to really scream this isn’t what we expected, because it was better than expected, because I didn’t expect them to hold in the first half. I didn’t expect them to have a 4th and goal stand like they did. So, as much as Utah wore the defense down, it wasn’t totally unexpected, because that’s what Utah does.

Napier made it a point that he wanted to cut down on penalties. I mean, 7 of 38 is not bad for Florida. I will say that, what was it? Was it two or three holding calls on kickoff? It was either two or three.

Nick: It was two in the first half.

Andrew: Right. So, either two or three. Those are silly ones. You can’t have those happen. You had a couple holding calls on offense there, but you had no delay of game penalties and no false start penalties. No offsides penalties. You did have one where you had a tenth man on the field. I mean, you had an extra twelfth man on the field on defense, but that was just simply because he didn’t get off in time. Not too concerned there. I thought penalties were cleaned up for the most part. Still some you’re iffy about.

Was a Pac-12 referee crew who, by the way, gave Utah points, because that kid did not catch the football, and I don’t care what he said, and then let them run a play. On 4th and goal, let them run a play and then blew the whistle. I know the whistle supposedly blew before the snap, but those were two plays that were just bizarre.

Nick: That particular 4th down play bothered me, and it wasn’t because they stopped the play, but it was because Napier earlier in the game was trying to get the refs to stop the play for the completed pass that they called, which actually hit the ground, which spotted Utah three points. Napier sprinted up the sidelines trying to get the refs to stop play, and they did not. Yet when Utah coach was calling for a timeout, he gets it.

Andrew: Right.

Nick: But you have to find a way to win, despite the referees.

Andrew: Adversity.

Nick: Despite the referees, despite adversity. You cannot let them determine the outcome of the game, and the Gators did not do that. They made a play when it mattered. I thought it was a great game all the way around.

Andrew: Here’s the thing too. For the first time in a long time, and listen, I am a trash talker. I will just say it like it is. I don’t mind a little bit of trash talk, but you did not see a ton of it that got out of hand in this game. It was a team that acted like they belonged there, and a team that acted like, hey, we’re here. We’re going to play ball with you. I don’t have to go around taunting you and that kind of stuff.

Overall, very impressed by it. Recruits were impressed by the atmosphere, and they should be. The atmosphere was insane. The win was great. Everything that you hoped to see out of the game was there. Like the new seating for the recruits in the south endzone. Those metal bleachers were not comfortable, trust me. I’ve sat there for a game. Not comfortable.

Nick: Yeah. No. The new seating for the recruits was awesome, and they also let them on the field for warmups, them and their families, which I thought was really cool. They get to be on the field while everyone’s looking at them. I thought that was a nice little touch too. The recruits were definitely pleased. They were happy. What a night that was to witness. What a night to be at.

Andrew: They had a couple big ones that were on campus. We didn’t get to tape on Friday, and that’s my fault. Again, came down with freaking Covid and missed the game. Not happy about it. Kind of jealous of Nick and Gentry. But Cedric Baxter came on campus, Texas commit. Richard Young was there, the Alabama commit.

A big one and maybe the most important one, and maybe the important two, not because they’re the best players, because they’re not better than Cedric or Richard Young, but Florida State offensive line commit Roderick Kearney, and then UCF defensive line commit John Walker. Two positions of need. We just talked about it. They need defensive line help. Walker’s a really good player. They need offensive line help. Kearney’s a really good player.

Billy Napier’s not quitting on guys, even if they’re committed. He’s just not. He has that motto of I’m going to recruit you until you sign your letter of intent. For better or worse, you should do that. I’ve said this, Nick, and I don’t know that I’ve said this to you on this podcast, but I’ll say it to you, and you can agree or disagree. You’re the freaking University of Florida. Show you’re the University of Florida. University of Florida means something. You shouldn’t back down from anybody commit wise. If they’re committed elsewhere, who cares? You’re the freaking University of Florida. When the University of Florida is rolling, the University of Florida is a big-time national program. Don’t quit on nobody.

Nick: Right. That’s it. That’s exactly right. Let me ask you something, Andrew. With about 40+ recruits and their families on campus last night, do you believe it’s still recruiting season for Billy Napier?

Andrew: I don’t think Billy Napier ever will say it’s not recruiting season. Here’s the thing though. This is what I think is funny. It’s different with recruiting season and summer months and the fall months, but having the army of people there. Some kids said it was the best hospitality they’ve ever had on a visit. Not only that, but some of these kids had somebody with them the entire night. Most of them did. Billy Napier and them didn’t have to do anything extra there because of that. They were just able to go about their normal gameplan on game day, have the army take care of it, because that’s their job to do, and talk to these kids afterwards.

I can’t say enough about what Napier’s built because of that. The good thing for Billy Napier, and this is an old quote Nick Saban used to say a long time ago when we would do coaching clinics. He said, “You want 75-80% of your recruiting class locked up before the season.” He said, “You want that because you want to be able to focus on less kids in the current class and more on the underclassmen, because the underclassmen don’t have to have as much love as the current class.”

I think you see that, even last night. The ’24 list and the ’25 list was insane. All Billy Napier had to do was go out and shake these kids’ hands and say hello to them. These kids feel like a million bucks right now.

Nick: I think Napier’s army not only helps with recruiting, but it also helps with the team and the team chemistry. We all saw that team photo with more staff members than players on the roster, and that was by design. Napier wanted these players to feel like I can go to someone and not feel like I’m bothering them or that they have too much on their plate. That was 100% by design. Napier wanted to build this kind of foundation of this is a family. If you need to reach someone, there’s multiple, multiple people that you can reach out to, and they can help you out, whether that be football related, personal related, academic related. He has a person to go to for everything that you would need.

Andrew: Again, I think it’s never said enough, but these are kids. Like it or not, they’re kids. Especially like the offensive line group, you have so many offensive linemen on this roster that you need those guys there. He has seven guys now that are just pretty much focused on the offensive line. That’s a lot of focus that can go there and stuff. You’re exactly right. I think that it even shows in some of the gameplan, because you’re able to have so many different eyes on it, and so many guys, not all the army are former coaches, but a lot of them are.

For instance, a guy like Jamar Chaney. That’s a guy that’s a football coach. He’s on your support staff. He’s going to see something different than maybe Jay Bateman at linebacker. Chaney played in the League at linebacker, played in the SEC at linebacker. He’s going to see something different that maybe Bateman doesn’t see, or maybe he picks on something Toney or somebody else doesn’t see. The more eyes you put on stuff like that will help for sure and will help this group in general.

Big week coming up. They got Kentucky. It’s another big game. Obviously, you want to start off the SEC on a great note. You get to celebrate this win against Utah for a couple of hours now. We’re taping this on Sunday afternoon. Here pretty soon they’ll be hitting the practice field and going over some stuff that went wrong in the Utah game, and then it’s time to turn your attention to Kentucky, as you try to get back on the winning ways in the SEC.

You probably go into this game ranked now, so you’re no longer the underdog. You no longer can say, we need respect. You got some respect. Now let’s see what this team can do with that respect. If I know Billy Napier like I think I do, knowing him for over 10 years now, this win’s not going to go to their heads. It’s only going to make them hungrier for more.

Nick: The players in the press conference last night said they have 24 hours. I think they said 6:30pm tonight, which is actually less than 24 hours, but 6:30pm tonight when they start film, they’re no longer allowed to celebrate that win. They have to be Kentucky ready.

Andrew: That’s what it is. Time to move on. Great win. Like I said, probably be ranked. It’s go time, and, like we talked about, there’s some things that need to improve, and I think they will improve. Let me ask you this. Was there anybody that didn’t play in the game that you thought you would see play? Then, I guess, was there anybody that played, two-part question, that we didn’t talk about that maybe you say they surprised me a little bit?

Nick: I think I was surprised not to see Lorenzo Lingard in the game. I know that the Gators have three very talented backs ahead of him, but I did think that he was at least going to see a few carries here and there, maybe get him on a bubble screen or something along those lines. I guess I was surprised to not see him, but we saw the product on the field, guys. We saw what those three running backs ahead of him can do, and you can’t sit there and blame Lingard for that. Those guys are very talented. I can tell you right now, they have a future in the sport.

Andrew: Lingard didn’t even get on the field in special teams did he?

Nick: I don’t believe so. I have actually yet to rewatch the game. I’ve been doing some writing and whatnot, but I am planning on rewatching it tonight, and I will look out for that.

Andrew: To my knowledge, he didn’t get on the field.

Nick: I don’t believe so. I at least thought we’d see him in special teams.

Andrew: Listen, here’s the thing. You earn snaps in the fall, and you can lose snaps in the fall. Here’s this. I’m not saying Lingard lost snaps in the fall. I think people just took the snaps from him.

Nick: Yeah. One player I want to bring up that we haven’t mentioned yet is Devin Moore. I know we were all expecting him to play, but I guess what I wasn’t expecting was for him to be on the final play, the game-winning play, that game-winning series there at the end, that interception by Amari Burney. He was in there at cornerback. I think that that just speaks volumes. Again, I keep bringing up trust, but Napier, he trusted Trevor Etienne on this final drive. He trusted Devin Moore to be in there and make a play. Let me tell you something, Devin Moore made a tackle on a 2nd down, I think the wide receiver maybe got a yard or two, but he made Utah burn another timeout. That was crucial.

Devin Moore, he didn’t play a lot in the first half, I don’t think, and then in the second half he was in there. He’s a player that, guys, he’s going to be a special player in the orange and blue. He made an open field tackle, which I was like, damn. What a tackle that was. Him and Jadarrius Perkins made two huge tackles there at the end. He’s a player that he’s going to do special things here.

Again, it’s the trust that Napier has in these younger players. Montrell Johnson fumbled on the first carry of the game, and he went back to him 11 more times. He also caught a pass for 14 yards. Trevor Etienne, first game, fumbles. Give it right back to him. He has so much trust, and these players have trust back. It was something to watch last night. I enjoyed it.

Andrew: I was impressed by Sapp and Justus Boone, for sure.

Nick: Absolutely.

Andrew: Glad to see Antwaun Powell play some good ball.

Nick: He did.

Andrew: Overall. I was really impressed with Daejon Reynolds. Glad to see him. That guy’s fast. Obviously, he was coming back from a knee injury last year that he suffered in high school, so that kind of hurt him a little bit. He’s a good ballplayer. You want to see that. You didn’t see any of Whittemore, or Whittemore didn’t show up in the stat sheet. Let me say it like that. You want to see that from Reynolds. I was happy to see that.

Was a little disappointed in the punt game. I will say that. Didn’t think punt game was very good overall. Thought Crawshaw made some directional mess ups, I guess is the best way to say it, in his punts, where you should have went to the left, and he kicked to the right. Especially that one where Florida was backed up in their own endzone, and it wasn’t a very good punt. He only averaged 40 yards a punt, so it wasn’t great, but he did have two inside the 20, overall there. Good news is you were perfect on PATs, so that was good to see. You didn’t have a field goal attempt in that game.

One thing I will say, Nick, is this. I want to see Etienne on kickoff returns. I think I’ve seen enough of the Henderson-Shorter stuff to say I’m good.

Nick: Yeah. Just special teams in general. It needs to improve in almost every facet. Like you said, the good news is the PATs were good. No issues there. The Gators didn’t even attempt a field goal, and that’s ideal. When you get into the redzone, you want to score touchdowns, and that’s exactly what Napier and the Gators did. That’s exactly why the Gators won. They capitalized in the redzone, and the Utes did not.

Special teams, all the way across the board, in my opinion, has to improve. From kickoff returns to kickoffs. I thought Mihalek there, when he was kicking off, and I don’t know if this was by design, but he kept putting it in the corner of the endzone dangerously close to the out of bounds mark.

Andrew: Scaring the crap out of me.

Nick: And he did it on that final kickoff, when Utah was getting the ball back. He put it, and it was about two yards away from being out of bounds, and I was sitting there like, what is he doing? If that had went out of bounds, they start at the 40-yard line. Then they would only need 30 yards for a solid field goal attempt. Like I said, I don’t know if that was by design. I’m pretty certain that Napier did not want it to get that close to the corner there.

Everything in special teams, in my opinion, needs to improve. The punt returns, I agree with you. I want to see Etienne back there. We saw Etienne and the way he can move, and the way he can cut, stop on a dime. He needs to be the one back there. Henderson, he’s a fast guy, but to me, in my eyes, and you may disagree with me, Andrew, but it seems to me he just takes a while to get going.

Andrew: Too passive I think is the best way to say it. I’m going to say this, and I may get ripped. He reminds me too much of Demarcus Robinson in a way, where he’s always looking for who’s coming for contact, instead of just catching it and go. Just catch and go, big dog. You’re fast enough that you catch and go, let it happen.

Nick: They kept going to Henderson. I think they threw to him three times on screens, and I think two of them didn’t work out. He had a really nice play. I think it was a 3rd and 5, where he was on the right side. They threw a screen to him, and he made a great cut up the middle, but that’s the kind of explosiveness we need to see.

Andrew: Right.

Nick: We need him to just catch and go. I said this last podcast. Henderson may be the fastest player on the team, but he just needs to have that explosiveness and that awareness. He needs to have awareness that he is the fastest player on the team.

Andrew: Right.

Nick: I thought he played a fine game. I didn’t have any issues with him at the receiver position, but I would like to see the Gators give another shot to a different guy with the punt return and the kick returns.

Andrew: Before we end this, real quick, I’m going to give you a couple notes. Billy Napier, first Gator head coach to defeat a ranked opponent in his first game at the helm. Also, Florida has now won 33 consecutive home openers. That was big. They won 30 of their last 31 openers in general. The last one was Michigan, the last loss that was. Overall, good night for the Gators. Get out on top. Billy Napier wins his opener. Anthony Richardson puts the nation on notice.

You’re 1-0, and the best thing about being 1-0 is the opportunity to go 2-0 against a Kentucky team that I think is vastly overrated. You’re not going to tell me I’m wrong. I’m sorry. I don’t think so. I think they’re vastly overrated. I think they’re always vastly overrated, where everybody thinks that this is the year Mark Stoops turns it around. People need to realize Kentucky is Kentucky.

Nick: Yup. I’ve said this for a few weeks now, and I know we’ve talked a lot about it, Andrew. I think the Gators could steamroll Kentucky next week. I like the way we match up against them. They don’t have their star running back, which is going to help the Gators a lot. They ran the ball horribly against a terrible opponent in Week 1. I think it was 29 carries for 50 yards.

Andrew: Yeah.

Nick: That’s unacceptable. Florida had 39 carries for 283 yards. Kentucky had 29 for 50.

Andrew: South Carolina, everybody made them out to be this powerhouse. Come on, Spencer Ratler still looks like the bust that Lincoln Riley had him as.

Nick: Before we end this podcast, we didn’t bring this player up, and I wanted to. Ricky Pearsall.

Andrew: Yeah.

Nick: He is the Gator’s wide receiver room. He only had four catches, but it was for 67 yards, and one play in particular, it was 3rd and 15. Richardson threw a high ball to Ricky, and he went up and got it. He’s a special player. He’s a guy that the Gators are going to all season long, and I can confidently predict right now, I’m pretty sure that he’s going to lead the Gators in receiving yards this year and catches as well. He’s just a rock in that. He's part of the reason why Whittemore didn’t get the game time that maybe a lot of people thought. Ricky is a special player.

Andrew: Really good player. Glad you mentioned that. Guys, we will be back on Wednesday. Sorry, had to get my Ps and Qs here in order. We’ll start to break down Kentucky, and then we’ll be back on Friday for our prediction time, as the Gators will host Kentucky in the Swamp on Saturday night in an opener. Nick, good stuff this week. We appreciate it, and make sure you guys are following us on Gator Country on the web and on social media, as we’ll be pumping out stories all week recapping Utah and also getting ready for Kentucky.

Nick: Yes, sir. It was a fun one.

Andrew: Thanks, guys.