The Gators returned to the Swamp following a tumoltuous week that saw their game against Eastern Washington delayed a day due to Hurricane Ian.
The game was everything the offense needed and left more to be desired from the defense at times.
Here are my grades for Florida’s 52-17 win over the Eagles:
How could you possibly score the offense anything but an A? Florida put up 666 yards of offense that included 392 in the passing game and 274 on the ground. Quarterback Anthony Richardson set the tone on the first play from scrimmage when he hit Justin Shorter for a 75-yard bomb to put the Gators on top. Florida also received some answers about the backup QB position as Jalen Kitna looked calm, cool, and confident.
As with the quarterback, many other positions saw younger, less experienced players get the opportunity to play. In total, thirteen Gators caught passes on Sunday and no one caught more than two.
Despite facing an FCS team that entered 1-2, the Gators defense continued to live by the “bend but don’t break” mantra. The Eagles took the opening drive 49 yards over thirteen plays that included a third and fourth down conversion. EWU converted eight third downs in the game.
The defense struggled to get off the field as mentioned above with the third down metric, but EWU was on the field for an absurd 36:28 (I know, some of that was attributed to the quickness that Florida scored).
Special Teams: D
Positive: Florida didn’t punt on Sunday. Negative: The Gators made one of two field goal attempts and the return game continues to be atrocious.
The blocked kick was the result of a botched snap, but there seems to be no answers in the return game. Xzavier Henderson averaged 5.4 yards on four punt returns with a long of 15 (the other three combined for eight yards). The only kick return was a 24-yard return by Trevor Etienne late in the fourth quarter. Etienne took it from the goal line and failed to make it to the 25 as a fair catch would have allowed, a common refrain from this team.
It’s hard to argue that this team wasn’t prepared to play. Offensively, Billy Napier called a fantastic game that put his quarterbacks in a good place with the brunt of the SEC schedule still to come. Defensively, the Gators are who they are. Feast or famine. The ability to get a big lead early and get reps for younger players may not pay off immediately, but it will help in the long run.
Florida will host Missouri for Homecoming Saturday. The game will kick off at noon.