Florida football’s new head coach got off to a strong start to his tenure at the helm of the program, scoring a huge upset win against the Utah Utes to open up the 2022 campaign, 29-26.
The Gators were seen as an underdog — a once-in-a-generation event when it comes to season openers in Gainesville — having put up its worst record in Southeastern Conference play since 1986 en route to a disappointing 6-7 record and the departure of Dan Mullen. Conversely, the Utes earned the Pac-12 title in 2021 and entered this fall’s campaign with lofty expectations, including a top-10 ranking in both major polls.
CBS Sports’ Shehan Jeyarajah was among the many impressed with the first-year head coach’s results, naming Billy Napier a “winner” in his Week 1 winners, losers and overreactions article. Take a look at what he had to say about the debut of Florida’s newest skipper.
There aren’t many better ways to start a coaching tenure than picking up a victory against a top-10 opponent. The Gators hit all the right notes en route to an upset of No. 7 Utah thanks to a dominant rushing performance from quarterback Anthony Richardson. Suddenly, Florida doesn’t look like an afterthought in the SEC East race. The rivalry game with Georgia on Oct. 29 should be circled. Napier became the first coach in Gators history to beat a ranked opponent in his first game with the program.
Never mind that this was a game played at home in the humid Swamp or that first-year head coaches at Florida have a penchant for over-performing. Napier’s squad overcame an early blunder to take a lead into halftime and fought valiantly in the second half to hold an edge going into the final minute. Amari Burney, who had been burned all night in coverage, was put in a position to make the big play to seal the deal thanks to the coaching staff.
There was also a calm demeanor on the sideline that both the coaches and players seemed to embrace, demonstrating the level-headedness required when it comes to clutch moments. Without a doubt, Napier deserves all the praise he has received, but he will be put to the test once again next weekend against the Kentucky Wildcats.
Gators earn superlative grade from CBS Sports for season-opening win
What the wild result from the LSU-FSU game means to the Gators
SEC QB Ranks: Where Anthony Richardson sits after Week 1
Gators a 'winner' in Week 1 action, per USA TODAY Sports
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