The Swamp wasn't just back, it was different: Gators top Utes in front of record crowd

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports
View Comments

The eighth-ranked Utah Utes knew they were walking into a hostile environment on Saturday night when they entered The Swamp. 

Little did they know what they were really about to experience. 

From belting the lyrics of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" to the eruption of noise that came when the Gators' defense walled up and stuffed Utah running back Tavion Thomas on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter, The Swamp felt different on Saturday — because it was different. 

Florida's season-opening game was played in front of 90,799 fans, making for the largest crowd at a season opener in school history. 

And a large majority of those folks went home happy as the Gators outlasted the Utes 29-26 in a Week 1 barnburner. 

A great day for AR:Five takeaways from Florida's win over No. 8 Utah: Anthony Richardson comes up big

Recap:Florida Gators pull off upset of No. 8 Utah, give Billy Napier win in debut

'Touchdown, Gators!':Anthony Richardson gives new Voice of the Gators Sean Kelley a workout

Reidel Anthony returns to The Swamp

Honorary Mr. Two Bits and former Florida Gators standout Reidel Anthony gets fans pumped up at the start of the opening game of the 2022 season against the Utah Utes at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Sept. 3, 2022.

When former Florida Gators wide receiver Reidel Anthony was announced as the honorary Mr. Two Bits for the Gators' season opener in The Swamp, folks should've known it was going to come with some theatrics. 

Anthony, famously known for his touchdown celebrations like the "Knoxville Leap" in Neyland Stadium, helped the Gators win their first national title under Steve Spurrier in 1996. 

On Saturday, he returned to The Swamp, taking the field before the game and leading Ben Hill Griffin Stadium's sellout crowd in Mr. Two Bits, a pregame tradition that dates back to 1949. 

With a shimmy and shake, Anthony made his shot at Mr. Two Bits memorable. 

The Swamp explodes as Gators make goal-line stand

It was fourth down and the ball was placed inside the Gators' 1-yard line with just more than nine minutes to play in the third quarter. 

Florida was white-knuckling its 14-13 lead and its defense was pressed firmly up against a wall when Utah's Tavion Thomas gutted the football and plunged toward the goal line, only to be met by Florida linebacker Ventrell Miller, who did Brandon Spikes' jersey a lot of justice on Saturday. 

Thomas was spotted short of the goal line. And Gators fans let him hear about it.

Tom Petty tradition still a spectacle

Gators fans cheer during the Tom Petty song “I Won’t Back Down” during the second half.

Utah had just taken a 19-14 lead over Florida as the final seconds of third quarter fell from the clock. 

But that didn't stop Florida fans from taking out their cell phones and soaking in the moment as the late Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" echoed off the orange walls of The Swamp. 

Richardson drops jaws with risky 2-point conversion

There's a new saying in Gainesville thanks to Billy Napier — "Scared money don't make money".

The Gators had just taken a 20-19 lead with a 14-yard rush from running back Montrell Johnson with 12:48 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. But that wasn't enough for Napier, who kept Richardson and the Gators' offense on the field for a 2-point conversion. 

Richardson nearly got himself in trouble, but was able to pump fake his way out of it before finding wide receiver Ja'Quavion Fraziars in the the back right corner of the end zone. 

Florida seals the deal with late interception

The Gators had the lead, but the Utes were knocking late. 

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising and the Utes' offense had the ball inside the Florida 10-yard line when he targeted tight end Dalton Kincaid in the end zone, only to be stunned by the hands of Florida linebacker Amari Burney. 

Burney's interception put the game on ice and gave The Swamp one last reason to erupt in celebration. 

View Comments