Florida handles lower-division Eastern Washington 52-17

Oct 2, 2022, 12:20 AM | Updated: 2:00 pm
Florida head coach Billy Napier, front left, and Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best, right, t...

Florida head coach Billy Napier, front left, and Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best, right, talk on the field after an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

              Florida head coach Billy Napier, front left, and Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best, right, talk on the field after an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
            
              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)
            
              Eastern Washington running back Micah Smith, foreground, runs after catching a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
            
              Florida cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. (3) knocks away a pass intended for Eastern Washington tight end Aiden Nellor (81) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
            
              Eastern Washington wide receiver Efton Chism III (89) is tackled by Florida's Ja'Quavion Fraziars on a kickoff return during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
            
              Florida wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (1) rushes for a 76-yard touchdown past Eastern Washington defensive back Kentrell Williams Jr. (34) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
            
              Eastern Washington quarterback Gunner Talkington (2) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
            
              Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter (4) celebrates with wide receiver Xzavier Henderson (3) in the end zone after Shorter scored on a 75-yard pass play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Eastern Washington, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
            
              Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter (4) runs to the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown on a reception in front of Eastern Washington defensive back Anthany Smith (4), right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
            
              Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) throws a pass for a completion while under pressure from Eastern Washington defensive lineman Brock Harrison during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Anthony Richardson looked quite comfortable playing on a Sunday for the first time in his college career.

Richardson threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns as Florida handled lower-division Eastern Washington 52-17 in a game delayed a day by Hurricane Ian.

The Gators (3-2) scored touchdowns on their first five possessions and totaled 666 yards while having their way with the Eagles (1-3) on a sun-drenched day in the Swamp. More than 72,000 were on hand for the first Sunday game at Florida Field, most of them expecting big things from Richardson.

His first throw was a 75-yard TD pass to Justin Shorter. His first run went for 45 yards and set up another score. 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.

“He did a great job,” coach Billy Napier said. “He’s a product of his work. I think you’re seeing a guy that’s settling in a little bit. He’s starting to get more familiar with what his routine should look like. … Just taking a true professional approach to the preparation part.”

Richardson completed 8 of 10 passes, with an interception on a deep ball to open the second half. He spent much of the second half cheering on backup Jalen Kitna, the son of retired NFL quarterback Jon Kitna.

Kitna completed 8 of 12 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, the first of his college career. His dad was scheduled to make the trip from Texas, but Ian’s aftermath forced him to cancel the trip.

Kitna’s performance should give Napier more confidence to call running plays for Richardson. Napier has been admittedly shy about putting Richardson in harm’s way considering backup Jack Miller has missed the first five games following hand surgery. But Kitna played with poise and threw several precise passes.

“The last couple of weeks I’ve become more comfortable with him as a player because I’m seeing him grow up in a practice setting,” Napier said. “He’s a smart kid and he takes a lot of pride in his role.”

Added Kitna, the only player from Washington on Florida’s roster: “It’s a little funny how that works. … It was just really cool. It’s a great experience.”

Receiver Ricky Pearsall added a 76-yard TD run for the Gators, who emptied their bench late after scoring 52 consecutive points to erase a 3-0 deficit.

Eastern Washington will get $750,000 for the cross-country trip, a significant payday for a team from the Football Championship Subdivision whose annual athletics budget is about $17.5 million. Players hopped into the stands at the Swamp to take pictures of what should serve as a lifelong memory.

The game between Florida and former Florida coach Jim McElwain’s alma mater was initially set for 2020 but was bumped because of COVID-19 scheduling. It landed on the schedule for Saturday but got pushed a day as Ian tore through the Sunshine State.

Gunner Talkington led the Eagles with 250 yards passing and a touchdown.

“A few explosive plays by their offense against our defense put us behind the eight-ball a little bit. We battled the entire day,” Eastern Washington coach Aaron Best said. “Not too many times has this university played on Sunday let alone played across county on Sunday against an upper-echelon team. We held our own for pockets.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Eastern Washington: No one expected the Eagles to keep the game close, especially since they lost 70-14 at Oregon last month. Eastern Washington is now 11-29 all-time against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Florida: The Gators got a much-needed break after an early season schedule that included three ranked teams: Utah, Kentucky and Tennessee. Florida will now play six straight against the Southeastern Conference.

UP NEXT

Eastern Washington plays at Weber State in Big Sky play on Saturday.

Florida hosts Missouri, the Gators’ fifth home game in six weeks to start the SEC season.

___

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Florida handles lower-division Eastern Washington 52-17