Florida coach Billy Napier watches his quarterbacks, including Anthony Richardson (15), during the NCAA college football team's practice Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

Anthony Richardson Wins Orange & Blue Game

The Billy Napier era in The Swamp has begun. After the clock hit zero, the Gators huddled up with orange and blue scattered all over, reunited, 142 days away from game one. For 60 minutes though, Anthony Richardson appeared to take the lead in the quarterback battle. Head coach Napier called his approach to football first-class.

Richardson led the presumable first-string Blue offense to a 34-0 victory against the Orange first-string defense. The other quarterback battle frontrunner Jack Miller played with the second-string Orange offense.

Running backs Montrell Johnson and Demarkus Bowman picked up a lot of carries, while the tight end converts shined– one even surprised Richarson with his performance.

In front of 45,000 on Thursday night, Florida hosted a high number of recruits and unbeknownst to Napier, experimented with a turnover chain.

Anthony Richardson & Blue Offense vs. Orange Defense

Richardson began his Orange and Blue game with an 8-yard pass to Trent Whittemore.

Lorenzo Lingard, who received minimal playing time last year grabbed the first down. He got carries early, but Johnson ended up the Blue running back star.

The Louisana transfer played some for both teams, rushing 62 yards on 15 carries. He’s “what the doctor ordered,” said Napier, disclosing that the self-proclaimed underrecruited running back hit 21 1/2 miles per hour last year.

Richardson concluded the first drive with a 19-yard pass to Ja’Markis Weston; the offensive fireworks for Blue had begun. With Richardson under center, the Gators scored on 5-6 drives, including four touchdowns. He ended the night 18-24 for 207 yards.

The sophomore said he loves the fast tempo offense. While he doesn’t find Napier’s offense easy to pick up per see, he believes with hard work, picking up the new style will come over time.

Richardson’s Biggest targets:

  • Richardson said he was surprised by high school rival Noah Keeter’s success Thursday night; the two connected thrice, once for 29 yards and another a touchdown on the third drive

Some history on Keeter– a Gainesville native, the Buchholz spent his first year as a linebacker at UCLA. He transferred to UF back in 2020 as a walk-on, failing to see any action in either year. In later March, the junior switched to tight end amid injuries.

  • Tight end Dante Zanders, someone Napier sees as immediately having a future. Beyond his 6-foot-5, 261-pound frame, Napier is impressed by his work ethic as he’s transitioned from defensive line to being a pass receiver.

“I saw him in the facility more than some of our coaches, grinding it out”

  • Whittemore. Richardson connected with Whittemore thrice on the first drive for 36 yards, but never targeted him again
  • Justin Shorter, returning for what he hopes to be a big fifth year, caught 3 passes for 27 yard

Carlos Del Rio-Wilson replaced Richardson to debut the Blue offense in the fourth quarter. He converted a fourth down with a seven-yard run, leading to a field goal.

Richardson reentered the game from one last scoring opportunity, but Princely Umanmielen “sacked” him to end the game.

Jack Miller and Orange Offense vs Blue Defense

Ohio State transfer had Miller a nice 16-yard pass to Ja’Quavion Fraziars to get inside the 25-yard line on the first drive.

On the next play though, Diwun Black nearly intercepted his pass– one of his two pass break-ups on the night.

Napier complimented Black for transforming his reputation around the program. During spring camp, he wrote down the junior as the gold standard for effort several days. Napier said he’s also improved academically.

It’s about who you are as a person. I firmly believe better people make better football.

Later, Miller attempted to run for it on third down, but failed. Chris Howard missed a 32-yard field goal, stranding Orange at o.

On the next drive, sophomore Donovan McMillon intercepted Miller’s pass inside the end zone for a touchback.

The subsequent two drives ended with incomplete passes.

Come to the half-time award show, Napier honored Jack Miller as one of the most improved on the team during spring camp.

Thursday wasn’t the best night for Miller, as he never got back into the red zone again; he finished 13-23 with 121 yards. It’s important to reiterate that he was playing with the second-string offensive players, albeit against the second-string defensive players.

Napier said he liked standing behind the quarterbacks because he can hear the communication and take the quarterback’s perspective.

It helps me because I can see where, okay that was a challenge, or an obvious mistake.

As the third quarter winded down, redshirt freshman Jalen Kitna replaced Miller in an unimpressive fashion, going 0-3.

Miller’s Biggest Targets:

  • Throughout the game, the Orange team relied heavily on Bowman. The sophomore posted 61 rushing yards, one behind double agent Johnson and added 18 receiving yards on four completions. Defensive lineman Tyreak Saap forced him to fumble in the third quarter.

https://twitter.com/GatorsFB/status/1514774272073367568?s=20&t=RqBsgngt8EejqIv9yAxCWg

  • Further, Fraziars caught five balls for 53 yards.

Special Teams

On the opening kickoff, Blue’s Mordecai McDaniel forced a Bowman fumble. Blue’s Derek Wingo recovered.

In the third quarter, Adam Mihalek made a 52-yard field goal, tying the longest Gator field goal since 2000.  He also scored one from 48 yards. Mihalek did not see any playing time last year, but he will likely see more this fall.

Turnover Chain

Napier said he was not aware of the touchdown and turnover chain worn on the sidelines. The University of Miami nod won’t continue, he confirmed.

For Johnson, the turnover chain can be fun, but it can be heavy for a player to wear when they come off the field tired.

The players won’t have to deal with that issue when Utah comes into The Swamp on Sept. 3– Napier said the University of Miami nod won’t continue.

About Julianna Reichenbach

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