Chomp: Gators take care of business against Eastern Washington; Missouri team that nearly beat Georgia up next

Florida wide receiver Caleb Douglas (12) celebrates with a drum major mace on the sideline after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Eastern Washington, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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Hey, Gators fans.

First off, our thoughts to any of you who were impacted by Ian.

The storm prompted Florida to reschedule its game against Eastern Washington. Let’s start recapping the matchup now.

💪 Florida dominates Eastern Washington

The Gators did what they were supposed to do against Eastern Washington to the tune of a 52-17 victory.

This could perhaps be the only non-nail-biter game that we’ll get to enjoy this season, so I hope y’all had as much fun watching it as I did. And playing a lower-division team provided some respite for the Gators, who have already faced three ranked teams and now have six-straight SEC games coming up.

The Gators (3-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) scored touchdowns on their first five possessions and totaled 666 yards while having their way with the Eagles (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky Conference) on a sunny Sunday in the Swamp.

Anthony Richardson completed 8 of 10 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He briefly left the game in the second quarter to get his right ankle tapped but later returned and was pulled early in the third. That gave backup Jalen Kitna, the son of retired NFL quarterback Jon Kitna, an opportunity to take the field. Kitna completed 8 of 12 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, the first of his college career.

“I think there are a lot of young players that got a chance to play for the first time today. Jalen Kitna would be a prime example of a guy who I thought, first time between the lines, really did a lot of good things, and there are a number of other young freshman that played,” Billy Napier said after the game. “We are going to make the most of this learning experience, and we are going to turn the page to get ready for the SEC East opponent.”

Backup Jack Miller has missed the first five games following hand surgery, and Napier said Kitna has made the most of getting the second team reps.

“The last probably two weeks, he’s really grown up a lot. He’s really grown up a lot. You go back to training game, probably the fourth or fifth day of training camp, he got injured. He missed significant time. But since Jack’s [Miller] injury and he started getting those twos, you’ve seen some growth there. All the guy does is throw completions in practice and that’s what he did today,” Napier said. “Two Thursdays ago, he was 100% completion percentage in practice. I don’t know if that’s ever been done. The guy’s a pretty smart player. He’s learned our system. For the most part, the ball went where it was supposed to go today.”

Kitna, who played a team from his home state of Washington, said it felt good to go out there and be prepared for his team.

“I have a job to do and went out there, and it feels a little like practice — not too hard. We have a game plan, and it was exactly what we saw. We have been preparing for it all week,” said Kitna, who wears No. 11, the same number that legendary Gator Steve Spurrier wore. “This new coaching staff is big on development. They are huge on every day getting 1% better so that is what I need to do, fix some little things with my throwing motion and being a better manager of the game and situations, having eyes in the back of my head so I can just worry about the defense, take my game to the next level. I am really appreciative of the staff and how they have developed me.”

GAME RECAP: Florida handles lower-division Eastern Washington 52-17

Gators Breakdown host David Waters gives his reaction on the latest podcast episode to the blowout win for Florida.

This was the first meeting between Florida and Eastern Washington. The game was initially announced in September 2016 when Jim McElwain, who played quarterback for Eastern Washington, was in his second season as the head coach of the Gators. As part of the original agreement, the game was scheduled for Sept. 5, 2020, but was rescheduled due to the pandemic.

The game was pushed back a day to Sunday due to Hurricane Ian. Napier offered his thoughts and prayers to those impacted by the storm. He also expressed his appreciation for those who made the game possible.

“We are very thankful for all the people that worked the game and made the game happen today. It’s already been a tough week for a lot of people around the state. We appreciate all the workers that showed up today and were able to make the game happen. I think for our team, there’s some opportunity to learn here, relative to perspective and being thankful for what we do have,” he said. “I think as an organization and for our players, over the next couple of months, we are going to have the opportunity to help a lot of people.”

It was only the second game played on a Sunday that has been recorded in Florida football history, and more than 72,000 fans were on hand for the first Sunday game at Florida Field. The Gators’ last-known Sunday game was on Jan. 2, 1977, against Texas A&M in the Sun Bowl. Florida is now 2-0 in all-time games on Sunday.

🔎 Gators continue search for 1st SEC win

For homecoming this week, the Gators will host a Missouri team that nearly knocked off No. 1 Georgia this past Saturday in an SEC East battle.

As they did last weekend, the Tigers (2-3, 0-2) will surely put up a fight as they try to get their first SEC win this season and attempt to prevent the Gators from getting theirs.

Missouri had the lead over the Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0 SEC) for nearly the entire game. But despite being kept out of the end zone until the fourth quarter and facing a 10-point deficit, the Bulldogs got their run game going just in time to avoid the upset in Columbia.

“We were self-inflicted wounds away from winning that game,” Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz said.

A LOOK BACK AT MIZZOU’S PREVIOUS GAME: Georgia rallies from 10 down to beat Missouri 26-22

After the near loss, Georgia dropped back down to No. 2 in both the AP Top 25 college football poll and the USA Today Sports AFCA football coaches poll. The polls were released on the same day as Florida’s Week 5 game, and the Gators remain unranked. Missouri is also not ranked.

Florida last hosted Missouri in 2020 and defeated the Tigers 41-17. Last year, the Gators lost 24-23 in OT against the Tigers in Columbia. The Gators own the all-time record at home 3-2, while the Tigers have a 6-5 advantage in the overall series.

The Florida-Missouri game on Saturday will kick off at noon and will air on ESPNU.

🕖 Kickoff time announced for Florida-LSU

There will be another raucous crowd cheering on the Gators under the lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Steve Spurrier Field when they host LSU, following their game against Missouri.

The SEC announced Monday that the Gators and Bayou Bengals will kick off at 7 p.m. on Oct. 15, which is Tom Petty Day at The Swamp.

Florida announced back in August that its matchup against LSU was sold out. For those not heading to Gainesville for the game, it will air on ESPN.

Florida last hosted LSU in 2020 and lost to the Tigers 37-34. The Gators own the all-time record at home 16-14-3 and the overall series 33-32-3.

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About the Author:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.