Humidity was a big topic ahead of Utah’s game at Florida in The Swamp a year ago.
How would the Utes handle the humidity? Would it affect their performance?
Leading up to the trip to Gainesville, Utah practiced with the temperature turned up in the practice facility to try and replicate some of that heat and humidity.
Utes on the air
No. 14 Utah (0-0)
vs Florida (0-0)
Saturday, 6 p.m. MDT
Salt Lake City, Utah
Radio: ESPN 700
Naturally, Salt Lake City’s elevation — Rice-Eccles Stadium sits 4,657 feet above sea level — was discussed during Florida head coach Billy Napier’s press conference, especially since the Gators don’t head out west very often. In fact, you have to go back to 1991 for the Gators’ last true road nonconference clash outside the state of Florida, a 38-21 loss to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.
“The altitude, we’ve spent extensive time researching that relative to our sports science and our training staff,” Napier said. “All indications tell us to go stay in your normal routine. It really takes 10 days to get adjusted (to the altitude). Get in, get out. We’ve met with a lot of NFL teams regarding that. So we feel good about our plan.”
The Gators will fly to Dallas on Tuesday, Napier said, because of Tropical Storm Idalia, which is expected to hit Florida on Wednesday. Florida will arrive in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, trying to limit its time at altitude.
And while the elevation could certainly have an impact on the Gators, it’s more about the team lining up across from them.
“I think it’s more about the football. I mean, I think the altitude, obviously everybody likes to talk about that, but Coach Whittingham and his team and the way they play football have been ultimately more important than that. So I think he’s done a fantastic job creating an identity for his team that’s allowed them to be consistent,” Napier said.
One Florida player that has experience playing at Utah is wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, the only starting wideout back for the Gators this season. Pearsall, who had 33 catches for 661 yards and five touchdowns last season, played three years at Arizona State before transferring to Florida ahead of the 2022 season.
He played at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2021, catching three passes for 39 yards, but Utah overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit to win 35-21.
“Their fans do a really good job of making a hostile environment. They’re loud,” Pearsall said, per Graham Hall of Swamp247.
Pearsall is not overly concerned with the altitude.
“I didn’t really notice it too much to be honest. I just go out there and play football for myself. ... There is a little bit of an adjustment factor, but we’re preparing for it each and every day,” he said.
With quarterback Cam Rising’s status for the Florida game up in the air, Napier and the Gators are preparing for every option at quarterback, be it Bryson Barnes or Nate Johnson under center if Rising is unable to play.
“We are doing all the homework we can here, but there’s really some unique players at quarterback that they have on the roster that cause you to really evaluate all the scenarios that could happen,” Napier said.
Johnson will still have special packages for him, Whittingham said, even if Barnes is indeed the option at quarterback.
The Gators have seen Rising before. The senior quarterback, who completed 22 of 32 passes for 216 yards, and threw a touchdown, an interception and added 91 yards on the ground at Florida, earned respect from Napier.
“Competitor, leader, football player, he’s a real quarterback,” he said.
Utah has won 14 straight games at Rice-Eccles Stadium, including 25 of its last 26 (the only loss coming in the season opener against USC in 2020), a streak that Pearsall and the Gators would love to break.
“... We’re getting ready to break that (win streak),” Pearsall said. “We’re excited.”