SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – It was in incredible to way to kick off the 2023 season.
On Utah’s first play from scrimmage, Bryson Barnes threw a 70-yard bomb to Money Parks, setting the tone for the 14th-ranked Utes in a dominating 24-11 win over Florida on Thursday.
“That was definitely a cool experience,” Barnes said after practice on Monday. “Especially when I was standing back there in the pocket. If you watch the clip, you know I was standing there kind of waiting for it. With Money Parks’ speed, that’s a fast dude right there.”
“It was a dream come true,” said Parks. “I never thought I’d get the opportunity to make a play like that the first play of the season.”
Filling in for the injured Cam Rising, Barnes and Nate Johnson both ran the offense well. They combined for three total touchdowns an no turnovers. Barnes completed 12 of 18 passes for 157 yards, while Johnson was Utah’s co-leader in rushing with 45 yards.
“Both Nate and Bryson rocked it,” said offensive lineman Jaren Kump. “They both scored rushing touchdowns, while Bryson of course had the other touchdown as well. I think they both did an awesome job.”
“To be able to have two guys that you have to prepare for, and two guys that are so markedly different in their styles,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “That presents almost a two-plan situation for an opposing defensive coordinator.”
Not many people knew that Barnes had been a non-scholarship walk-on player. It wasn’t until after the Florida game that he earned a full scholarship.
“It definitely helps a lot,” Barnes said. “You don’t have to worry about paying for school. I don’t have to go back to Lowe’s and work a part-time job anymore. So there are definitely some perks to that.”
“I’m proud of Bryson, but I’m not surprised,” said offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. “No one is more invested than Bryson Barnes. He has shown continual improvement throughout his career here, and he’s our guy right now.”
As of today, Rising no longer has any limitations at practice as he comes back from ACL surgery in January. Whether Rising plays against Baylor this Saturday is still to be determined.
“It’s day by day, and we’ll just see how he responds,” Whittingham said. “We’ll see how the injury responds, because this is his first week of completely no limits, and we’ll see what he can do.”
“Personally, I’ve just got to keep doing the things that I’m going to do each and every day regardless of if he plays or if he doesn’t,” Barnes said.
Baylor is coming off a devastating 42-31 loss to Texas State at home on Saturday. The Bears will also be without starting quarterback Blake Shapen, who suffered a leg injury in the game, but the Utes aren’t taking this team for granted.
“It was a disappointing loss for Baylor I’m sure,” Whittingham said about his future Big 12 opponent. “We don’t expect to see the same team on Saturday that we see on tape in that game. They have a great coaching staff, they’ll fix things and they’ll get the ship corrected.”
Utah and Baylor will set sail Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. in Waco.