Bryson Barnes helps No. 14 Utah beat Florida 24-11 in season opener

by Ethan Kim

In the season opener, the No. 14 ranked Utah football team showcased its formidable defense, reminiscent of its past dominance over Pac-12 rivals. Bryson Barnes, who quickly asserted his impact, initiated proceedings with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Money Parks on the very first play of the game. Barnes further bolstered his performance by securing another touchdown through a rushing play, ultimately contributing to Utah’s 24-11 victory over Florida on Thursday night.

Nate Johnson, sharing quarterback duties with Barnes, stepped in for the injured usual starter, Rising, who was recovering from a knee injury sustained during the Rose Bowl. In the absence of Rising, Utah’s defense intensified its efforts, forcing turnovers and accumulating five sacks. Their formidable defense limited Florida’s offensive prowess, as the Gators struggled to convert 1 out of 13 third-down attempts and 2 out of 5 fourth-down attempts. Moreover, Florida only managed a mere 13 yards rushing on 21 attempts.

Reflecting on the game, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham attributed the pivotal difference to the team’s exceptional defensive performance. Graham Mertz, in his debut start for the Gators, completed 333 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Ricky Pearsall recorded 92 yards on eight receptions. Despite making multiple appearances in the red zone, Florida struggled to convert these opportunities into substantial points, ultimately amassing just 10 points from those drives.

Bryson Barnes, in his second career start, wasted no time in making his presence felt by delivering the early scoring strike to Money Parks. Barnes exhibited composure throughout the game, completing his first four passes and accumulating 150 passing yards by halftime, culminating in a total of 159 yards by the end of the match. Barnes revealed that he learned about his starting role for Utah just a week and a half prior to the game, and his touchdown on the first play significantly boosted the team’s morale.

Notably, Nate Johnson entered the game during the second quarter, shaking Florida’s defense with a 27-yard rushing touchdown that extended Utah’s lead to 14-3. Special teams errors proved costly for Florida, as they committed a penalty that sustained Utah’s second touchdown drive. Additionally, a short Florida punt set up a 51-yard field goal for Utah.

Sione Vaki’s interception within Florida’s territory set the stage for Utah’s third touchdown, which Barnes executed with a 5-yard rushing play. This further solidified Utah’s lead at 24-3 early in the third quarter.

In retrospect, Florida struggled to generate offensive momentum, accumulating a mere 8 yards in the second quarter and averaging just 0.7 yards per play. Their conversion rate on third downs was abysmal, going 0 of 9 before finally converting one in the fourth quarter. On the other hand, Utah’s imposing defense compensated for any shortcomings in their offensive output. While their running game was less explosive than usual, averaging 3.5 yards per carry, Utah’s defense managed to restrict Florida to a mere 13 yards rushing.

Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson, Jr., who had previously averaged 120 yards rushing for the Gators, struggled to gain traction and combined for only 31 yards on 10 carries. This led to Florida repeatedly facing challenging third-and-long situations throughout the game.

The punting performance of Jack Bouwmeester was a standout aspect, as he averaged an impressive 51.8 yards on six punts, with three pinned inside the 20-yard line. Bouwmeester achieved a rare feat by delivering punts of 64 and 61 yards in the same game, similar to Tom Hackett’s accomplishment in 2014. These well-placed punts proved instrumental in providing the Utah defense with advantageous field positioning.

The comprehensive victory over a formidable SEC opponent is expected to enhance Utah’s standing in the upcoming AP poll.

Looking ahead, Florida is set to host McNeese on September 9, while Utah will face Baylor on the same date.

(AP college football coverage: https://bigbignews.net/college-football and https://bigbignews.net/ap-top-25-college-football-poll)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Victory

What was the outcome of the game between Utah and Florida?

Utah emerged victorious with a 24-11 win over Florida in the season opener.

Who played a key role in Utah’s victory?

Bryson Barnes, making his impactful debut, threw a 70-yard touchdown pass and rushed for another score.

How did Utah’s defense perform in the game?

Utah’s defense showcased dominance, forcing turnovers, recording sacks, and limiting Florida’s offensive capabilities.

What challenges did Florida face during the game?

Florida struggled to generate offensive momentum, faced difficulties on third downs, and had limited rushing success.

How did special teams contribute to the game’s dynamics?

Jack Bouwmeester’s exceptional punting performance aided Utah’s field positioning and defensive advantage.

What’s next for both teams?

Florida is scheduled to host McNeese, while Utah is set to face Baylor in their upcoming matches.

What impact could this victory have on Utah’s ranking?

Utah’s convincing win over a strong SEC opponent is likely to boost their standing in the AP poll.

Where can I find more information about college football coverage?

More about Victory

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GatorNation September 1, 2023 - 6:06 pm

tough loss for the gators, but Mertz did show some promise. gotta bounce back nxt game!

SarahB September 1, 2023 - 9:44 pm

florida struggld big time, couldn’t get anythng goin on offens. utah’s got a solid shot in the rankings now!

Jake87 September 2, 2023 - 1:08 am

wow utah’s defnse was on fire, they totaly shut down florida’s ofense. bryson barnes, amazin debut, 70-yrd td pass? insane!

FootballFan23 September 2, 2023 - 9:17 am

that punt game tho, bouwmeester’s kicks were like rockets, changd the field posishn compleetly!


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