Utah Football lost its first game of the 2022 college football season to Florida. It was a tough loss since the Utes had a shot to win in the dying moments, and it may have derailed their chances at making the College Football Playoff.

What a fun game, though, right?

The No. 7 Utah Utes lost a close one on the road thanks to a late interception by Florida’s Amari Burney. He intercepted Utah quarterback Cam Rising with 17 seconds left to secure a 29-26 victory for the Gators.

As result, the Florida Gators won their 33rd consecutive home opener in dramatic fashion. The seventh-ranked Utah Utes had a good chance to salvage the W, but again, Rising was intercepted at the goal line on a second-and-goal from the 6.

Is Cam Rising still a good QB? Is the CFP window closing for the Utes? Let’s dive into Utah football these takeaways and more.

3. Utah’s ground D needs improvement

The Gators rushed for 282 yards on 39 attempts, averaging 7.2 yards per carry.

On 11 carries, Florida QB Anthony Richardson gained 104 yards and three running touchdowns. On top of that, he also completed 17-of-24 passes for 168 yards. Meanwhile, Montrell Johnson Jr. rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts. Trevor Etienne also ran for 64 yards on five attempts.

The Utah defense surrendered over 250 yards and four explosive runs in the first half. If it hadn’t been for Jonah Elliss’ forced fumble on the team’s first drive, the Gators may have gone into halftime with an even greater advantage. Richardson shook loose too frequently, sprinting 45 yards for a score to give Florida the lead at the half. Containment was definitely one of the huge problems for Utah football in this game.

Yes, Florida appears to be significantly improved in Year 1 under head coach Billy Napier, but at the same time, Utah will not achieve its goals this season if it allows too many 300-yard running performances.

2. Cam Rising is still a good QB

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Late Saturday night, Cam Rising didn’t have much to say, but he didn’t have to. His facial expression was enough.

Utah football’s fifth-year junior quarterback emitted a mix of rage, despair, and despondency 15 minutes after throwing a game-ending interception in the end zone that helped secure a 29-26 University of Florida victory at The Swamp.

Despite this, Rising led his team to the brink of not just a win, but of making anything realistically conceivable for the Utes this autumn.

Objectively speaking, Rising had a successful night. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 216 yards and a first-quarter touchdown throw to Brant Kuithe. His second half was much better than his first, which had some accuracy concerns. This was particularly evident on the penultimate drive before halftime when he missed a number of open receivers and the team failed to score.

Having said that, Rising is still a good QB who will win a lot of games this season. Utah football will continue to be the overwhelming favorite to go to the Pac-12 championship game. The idea of making it to the College Football Playoff is not dead, but Rising’s quality of play needs to improve.

1. Utah’s tight road to CFP

This is what can happen when a team starts the year with an all-or-nothing mentality. The Utes hoped to build on their Pac-12 championship in 2021 by advancing to the College Football Playoff in 2022. To accomplish this, the Utes needed to start the season with a victory over Florida.

That obviously did not happen. A close loss with some style points is clearly preferable to a blowout, but a loss is still a loss. This defeat just tightened things up moving forward for Utah football’s prospects of making the CFP.

This result means the Utes must now run the table. They can’t afford a conference defeat. And, ideally, USC and Oregon should both bring reasonably clean records to their October and November encounters, respectively.

Coach Kyle Whittingham’s team began the season with the highest preseason ranking in program history. This matchup with the Gators was hailed as the most important game in the program’s history. They were competitive as heck, but at the end of the day, the Utes fell a play short.

Yes, Utah could have played it safe by kicking a game-tying field goal instead of going for the end zone, but again, with an all-or-nothing mindset for the season, should we be surprised by what the Utes did?

We’ll see months down the road just how fateful that decision was.