Gators head coach Billy Napier paces the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Gator Football Looks to Eastern Washington Game Sunday

After the tough loss in Knoxville, Billy Napier and the Gators turn their attention to Eastern Washington who head to Gainesville for Sunday’s contest. Eastern Washington will take on an SEC team for the first time when they head to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this weekend.

Florida and Eastern Washington kickoff Sunday at noon.

Lots of Respect

Billy Napier praised head coach Aaron Best and the Eastern Washington football program in his press conference earlier this week. Napier mentioned his respect for the FCS as a whole, being a former FCS player himself, but also gave credit to the winning culture of Eastern Washington.

Meanwhile, Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best spoke highly of the opportunity to take on an SEC team and a program as storied and prestigious as Florida.

Best also mentioned how strong the love and sense of respect his team has for each other which is one of his favorite aspects of his group.

“They love each other,” he said. “They play for each other…they compete in all facets on and off the field.”

Giving Up Explosive Plays

The Gators struggled to contain the Tennessee offense that has been explosive all year, but Napier believes that “team defense” is at fault for some of those plays.

“We haven’t met our objective a couple weeks in a row on third down,” he said. “We’re talking team defense. You have to have 11 players doing what they’re supposed to do. We gave up explosive plays in the game as a result.”

The Gators gave up 576 total yards, but most importantly multiple 40+ yard plays that led to great scoring opportunities for the Volunteers.

Florida will hope to find their edge on defense against Eastern Washington who average 28.3 points per game.

On the other side, Best has a lot of faith in his defense, especially when they face adversity.

Consistency is Key

Napier preached the importance of consistency in all aspects of the program, which the Gators have struggled with throughout the early season.

“There are a dozen plays where Florida beats Florida,” he said.

Anthony Richardson has been one of those inconsistent pieces so far this year, but he came to life in Knoxville. Finding the endzone four times, Richardson finally found a passing touchdown all while throwing for 453 yards.

Consistency is hard when there are injuries, but Napier gave Austin Barber a lot of credit for stepping up for the injured Michael Tarquin.

“I’m proud of Austin,” he said. “I think he’s got a bright future.”

Consistency at the quarterback position has been difficult for Eastern Washington as they were forced to replace last year’s star quarterback Eric Barriere.

Best emphasized how difficult it is to replace a quarterback, especially one of Barriere’s caliber.

He is still very confident in his new quarterback, Gunner Talkington, who has started all three games this season.

Storm Situation

“We got a lot of people in our state who are going to be in for a rough ride,” said Napier.

As Hurricane Ian makes landfall, there were a lot of questions as to when and if the game would be played. Napier was very firm about how this weekend is about more than just football.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the game would still take place in Gainesville, but would be moved to Sunday in order to allow the storm to pass.

About Matt Quartararo

Matt is a third-year journalism major specializing in sports media and is also completing a sports management certificate. He also participates in sports broadcasting.

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