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Florida football: Three things Gators learned from win over EWU, with Mizzou up next

SportsFlorida football: Three things Gators learned from win over EWU, with Mizzou up next

Floridspan footbspanll (4-2, 0-2 SEC) will enter its homecoming matchup with Missouri on Saturday (noon, ESPNU) on an uptick after trouncing Eastern Washington 52-17 on Sunday.

The Gators amassed 666 yards of offense in the win against the FCS school, with quarterbacks Anthony Richardson and Jalen Kitna looking sharp in the process. Richardson passed for 240 yards and 2 TDs while Kitna added 152 yards and 1 TD.

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Missouri gave No. 1 Georgia a scare on Saturday before falling 26-22 at home. The Tigers (2-3, 0-2 SEC), like the Gators, are seeking their first conference win,

“They’ve got some weapons,” Florida defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp said. “They’ve got some guys that can do some damage. We’re going to make sure we take all the steps that’s needed to be made to actually go out there and play against that team.”

Here’s three things the Gators learned following the EWU win on Sunday:

Florida protects its quarterbacks 

The Gators did not allow a sack against EWU and have given up just three sacks in five games, second best in the SEC behind Ole Miss.

It helps to have a mobile quarterback like Richardson to dance out of trouble, but credit also goes to a Florida offensive line that has consistently protected the pocket for its quarterbacks. Florida has managed to overcome an injury to starting right tackle Michael Tarquin Jr., and is developing depth at all positions on the offensive line.

Florida offensive lineman Josh Braun protects the pocket during Sunday's game against Eastern Washington.

 “We’ve got a saying in the O-line room, 5 equals 1,” Florida offensive lineman Richie Leonard IV said. “And our coaches preach to us, coach (Rob) Sale and coach (Darnell) Stapleton, you know, if six equals one, six are going to play. If seven equals one, seven are going to play.”

The Gators have depth in the QB room

Richardson has managed to stay healthy through the first five games this season, but it helps to know that Kitna, a redshirt freshman, is developing well behind him.

Kitna looked sharp in completing 66.7 percent of his passes and has taken steps forward each week in practice, according to Florida coach Billy Napier.

 “With this new coaching staff, they’re big on development,” Kitna said. “They’re huge on just every day getting one percent better. So, that’s what I aim to do. Just, fixing little things in my throwing motion, being a better manager of the game, knowing situations and knowing the playbook inside and out, having that in the back of our heads so we can focus on other things like the defense and the protections, getting those things right. So, just taking my game to the next level.”

With Jack Miller on the mend and close to returning from thumb surgery, Florida will likely have two backups with experience to turn to in the second half of the season if something should happen to Richardson.

Defense remains a work in progress

Florida was slightly better on third down (8 of 18) and fourth down (1 of 4), but still allowed 411 total yards against EWU.

Of EWU’s 17 points, 14 came in the fourth quarter when many second- or third-stringers entered the game. Florida generated one takeaway but missed a chance at a second when Sapp couldn’t scoop up a fumble caused by teammate Princely Umanmielen on a sack.

“We’re going to see we could have done some things better, better leverage, played with a little tighter coverage, a little bit better gap integrity at times,” Napier said. “But I think we’re very much a work in progress there. I think all our guys got really good experience (Sunday) and I think it will be beneficial for the future.”

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