College football in its full form returned to our television screens Thursday night. Gus Johnson and the Fox crew called a wildly entertaining 13-10 Minnesota win over Nebraska, while ESPN’s No. 1 group was in Salt Lake City for Florida at Utah.
Former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz is a Florida Gator, if you haven’t heard already. It’s safe to say Wisconsin fans were interested in his debut performance, and whether anything looked different aside from the color of his helmet.
Well, Utah beat Florida, 24-11. The Gators couldn’t score in the red zone, handed away possessions due to penalties and did not look like a team well-prepared for the season.
Amid all that, believe it or not, Mertz set a career high in passing yards. He finished the contest with 333 yards on 31 of 44 passing with one touchdown and one interception. His previous career high was the 299-yard effort against Northwestern last season.
Here are two of the big plays:
— 247Sports (@247Sports) September 1, 2023
Mertz picks up where he left off at Wisconsin and throws an interception
— Back2Back 704 Dawg ➐ (@FSFRecruits) September 1, 2023
I believe this is a case of stats being slightly misleading. Florida could move the ball at times, but the quarterback and offense as a whole failed to make routine plays when necessary. That is not to say it was all on Mertz; Florida’s line and wide receivers didn’t lend much help. But we saw last night many of the same issues that plagued him during his time at Wisconsin.
What does this mean? Absolutely nothing. Paul Chryst and his entire staff are no longer employed, so the benefit of hindsight will not mean anything for the Wisconsin of the future. I will say it was enjoyable to go through the Graham Mertz experience without the stakes of Wisconsin playing in the game.