With a major assist from his Utah counterpart Cameron Rising forcing a late ball into coverage for a game-sealing interception, Anthony Richardson managed to lead the Florida Gators to a major upset over the AP seventh-ranked Utes.
I know, ye War Eagle faithful. You're looking at that headline, rolling your eyes and thinking, "BLASPHEME!" To be clear, Cam Newton's 2010 season at Auburn in which he carried the Tigers to a natty is one of the greatest standalone performances in collegiate sports history. I'm just telling you what the consensus quarterback comparison is for Richardson, who's only about an inch shorter and ~10 pounds lighter. We're talking that kind of imposing physical build, skill set, and wildly high ceiling.
Richardson was stuck behind Emory Jones for the most part last year. He got but one spot start — and got socked around by Georgia's legendary, championship defense. With Jones out of the picture and the team now his under new coach Billy Napier, Richardson waltzed into The Swamp on Saturday night to lead the unranked Gators over Utah 29-26.
Didn't matter that Florida was an underdog in Gainesville. Nothing was going to stop Richardson from putting on an absolute show, to the tune of 17-of-24 for 168 pass yards to go with 11 carries, 104 yards, and three TDs on the ground.
For someone making only his second college start, Richardson showed patience and the ability to read the field from the pocket, such as on this strike:
You see the insane arm talent on display. Now, did Richardson miss some reads out there? Sure. Good news is, he has the freakish athletic ability to make plays like THIS to swing the momentum of an entire game:
In a truly back-and-forth affair, it takes special plays to come out on top. As if the ones I've shown already weren't enough, how about leading Florida to yet another TD drive, and then ball-faking the shit out of the Utes on this nutty two-point conversion!
On the game-winning drive, Napier made a bold timeout call before a 4th and 3. Evidently confident his QB would convert somehow, Richardson rewarded that trust (or maybe mistake, TBH) by scampering past the sticks with ease when the pocket began to cave in around him. Down near the goal line, guess who Napier called upon once more? No. 15…and no, this ain't a Tim Tebow flashback.
Richardson already has some special composure and playmaking ability, along with a nice feel for when to take off and run versus when to buy time to create chunk plays through the air. The threat of Richardson's legs make Florida's rushing attack so difficult to defend. Every time at the mesh point, you're afraid Richardson will tuck it and bolt to the edge for a massive gain.
With how loaded this 2023 NFL Draft QB class is expected to be and how small the sample size is on Richardson, he'd need to do something truly special to stand out as one of the top three prospects. Then again, if he stays on this extremely promising trajectory, who knows what heights Richardson could ascend to before the year ends.
We might be looking at our next one-year wonder who happens to have similar dimensions to Cam Newton. Even if Richardson doesn't match Cam's overall achievements on the gridiron, he has a comparable amount of upside. Anthony Richardson's Heisman Trophy campaign to at least match Newton in that department is off to a strong start. He may not be deemed a dark horse for much longer.