Richardson shines, Burney seals Florida’s win vs. No. 7 Utah

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Standing in the tunnel and waiting to run into the raucous Swamp for the first time, Florida coach Billy Napier turned to an assistant and summed up the moment.

“Can you believe they pay us to do this?” he said.

It seemed like money well spent after the Gators delivered their biggest season-opening victory in more than 50 years.

Anthony Richardson ran for three scores in his second career start, including a 2-yard scamper with 1:25 remaining, and Florida upset seventh-ranked Utah 29-26 on Saturday night to get the Napier era off to a rousing start.

Richardson was the best player on the field most of the night. He really showed up down the stretch, although fifth-year linebacker Amari Burney was the one who sealed the victory for the rebuilding Gators. Burney intercepted Cam Rising‘s second-down pass into the end zone with 17 seconds remaining.

“Someone had to make a play, It happened to be me,” Burney said.

That set off a wild celebration for many of the 90,799 in attendance – the 10th most at home in school history. Richardson took a knee from there, and the Gators rushed the field to revel in their 33rd consecutive victory in home season openers. That’s the longest current streak in the nation.

“This group’s got a lot of fight in them,” said Napier, who replaced fired coach Dan Mullen in November. “They’ve got a little bit different edge to them.”

Richardson ran 11 times for 106 yards and was never stopped for a loss. He completed 17 of 24 passes for 168 yards and played turnover-free football.

“He’s going to get his (NFL payday),” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “He’s 6-4, 230 and runs like a 4.3. He’s a terrific player.”

Richardson’s best play? He had an electrifying 2-point conversion early in the fourth quarter that put the Gators up 22-19. He juked former Florida teammate Mohamoud Diabate with a pump fake and then sprinted right by fellow Utah linebacker Lander Barton before throwing a strike to Ja’Quavion Fraziers in the back of the end zone.

Utah answered and briefly took the lead, but Richardson responded. He moved the chains with a third-down throw and again with a fourth-down run, both of which set up his game winner.

“Just trying to make something happen. Glad it worked,” Richardson said.

Rising moved the Utes in position to steal one on the road for a team that entered the season with its highest preseason ranking in school history. But Rising’s last pass was his most important – or costly – of the night.

“It wasn’t Cam’s best throw,” Whittingham said. “I’m sure he’d like that back, but he played great.”

Rising completed 22 of 32 passes for 216 yards, with a touchdown and the turnover. He also ran for 91 more.

Tavion Thomas had 115 yards rushing and a score for Utah, which caught a break when it rained about two hours before kickoff and erased whatever advantage Florida had with sweltering summer heat and humidity.

GAME CHANGERS

The difference was Florida’s success and Utah’s failure in the red zone. The Gators scored touchdowns on all three trips into the 20-yard line. The Utes had the late turnover and were stuffed on consecutive downs at the goal line to open the third quarter.

Utah also settled for two first-half field goals, one from 43 yards and another from 31.

THE TAKEAWAY

Utah: The defending Pac-12 champions showed resiliency on the road, battling back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Despite the loss, the Utes have enough talent and experience to be a factor in the chase for the College Football Playoff.

Florida: The Gators don’t look like they’ll in rebuilding mode for long. Napier’s recruiting has jumped in the last two months and a game like this could do wonders to help him close the gap on Southeastern Conference heavyweights Alabama and Georgia.

“There’s a lot of good energy in the locker room right now,” Richardson said.

MILLION DOLLAR HANDSHAKE

Napier showed a bit of modern-day coaching nuance in the first half when he left his team during a timeout to offer millionaire booster Hugh Hathcock a handshake and a partial hug. Hathcock is one of the program’s top donors.

Hathcock, who owns Velocity Automotive Solutions, gave the University Athletic Association a $12.6 million gift in April. Some of the money will be used to renovate Florida’s aging basketball practice facility and some is sure to help the football program. The Gators plan to name a suite tower at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and its basketball complex after Hathcock.

UP NEXT

Utah: hosts Southern Utah next Saturday. The in-state teams played once previously, with the Utes winning 24-0 in 2016.

Florida: continues its tough opening stretch when it hosts No. 20 Kentucky to being SEC play next Saturday night.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.