- Updated depth chart reveals several new starters
- Defensive Commits: Ranked too high, too low or about right
- 15 Players we anticipate seeing a bigger role this weekend
After moving the game back to Sunday due to the then incoming Hurricane Ian, the Florida Gators will move on from their dramatic loss in Knoxville and host the Eastern Washington Eagles. The FCS school will make the cross-country trip to Gainesville and Dan Thompson of the Spokesman-Review helped Inside the Gators know the Eagles a little better.
Five Eastern Washington Eagles to Know
Gunner Talkington, Quarterback, Redshirt Senior
- The quarterback from the high school class of 2017 joined EWU as a walk-on. “Finally he’s getting his chance to start, and he’s played well against FCS competition,” Thompson said. He’s listed at 5’10”, but Thompson said Talkington can make the throws and scramble when he needs to.
Freddie Roberson, Wide Receiver, Redshirt Junior
- Roberson is the Eagles leading receiver through three games. He has 214 yards and two touchdowns on his stat sheet and has led in receiving yards in all three games this season. Thompson described Roberson as “fast and fearless about going over the middle when he has to make a catch.” He seems to be a big play waiting to happen is Florida doesn’t focus on him.
Efton Chism III, Wide Receiver, Sophomore
- Thompson said Chism “might be the most purely talented player on the team and also one of the hardest workers.” He even said he has a little Cooper Kupp, who is a former Eastern Washington Eagle, in his game. He leads the team with three receiving touchdowns and is also seen as the team’s primary kick returner.
Mitchell Johnson, Defensive Lineman, Redshirt Senior
- He has two sacks so far on the year, both in the season opener against Tennessee State where he had 11 total tackles. He struggled against Oregon the following week and only registered one tackle, but Thompson said he is “their most electric player up front.”
Ely Doyle, Defensive Back, Redhsirt Junior
- The team’s leading tackler with 26 is the Arizona State transfer from three years ago. He’s fresh off an 11-tackle performance against Montana. “He is stout against the run and reliable against the pass as well,” he said, “He is especially good in goal-line situations.”
Five Fast Facts
- Week 5 marks the first-ever meeting between Florida and Eastern Washington on the gridiron
- The Gators are one victory away from their 750th win in program history
- Florida has played one known game on a Sunday in team history – on Jan. 2, 1977, vs. Texas A&M in the Sun Bowl (L, 17-23). TAMU kicker Tony Franklin earned MVP honors thanks to a 62-yard FG – an NCAA Bowl record that still stands.
- The Gators have played 88 total games against FCS opponents, owning a 67-17-4 record (.784).
- In seven non-con games since 2021, UF ranks second in the P5 with 265.7 rushing YPG and 10th with 492.7 YPG.
Five Gameday Storylines
- The imminent hurricane forced the game to be moved to Sunday at noon. There was debate over whether it would happen at all or if it needed to be moved elsewhere. Thompson said the Eagles’ original plan was to fly in on Thursday to adjust to the time difference, but that on Wednesday their plan was still uncertain. “It must be strange to practice in what has been lovely early fall weather here – nearby Spokane actually set a record by hitting 90 degrees this week – and to know that there’s a massive hurricane bearing down on the state you’re traveling to,” he said.
Florida’s Struggle with Samford a year ago
- Florida had a close call with Samford last season. The Gators required an all-time performance by Emory Jones and a 70-point performance to escape with a home win against the FCS school. “Passing the ball is something Eastern has a long tradition of being good at, and this year Gunner Talkington has shown in spurts that he can make the throws against FCS teams,” Thompson said, “Against Oregon? Not so much (12 for 21, 87 yards). He’s got to be more accurate early in the game for the Eagles to have a chance to keep up with the Gators. The Eagles have talented wide receivers and a solid offensive line, so I would expect that they can give Talkington at least a little time to find open players to throw to. But they also can’t afford turnovers. Their defense just hasn’t been good enough this year to give the Gators short fields.”
Richardson Getting in a Groove?
- Richardson had the best performance of his career in unfavorable conditions. On the road in a sold-out Neyland, Richardson showed up. The expectation is for him to do the same at home against EWU. They’ve certainly had plenty of practice so far this year against quarterbacks who can run and throw, but they haven’t seen anyone like Richardson, obviously,” Thompson said, “After looking at the Oregon game, coaches and players said that they had Ducks players lined up and covered them decently well, as evidenced by the fact that the Eagles really didn’t give up big plays in that game. But they also didn’t win many one-on-one battles at cornerback, at linebacker or along the line. The Eagles are just going to have to do that against the Gators, and that’s a tall order when you’re giving up size and speed advantages.”
Buying a loss
- There have been several instances this year where P5 programs have ‘bought a loss’ (Miami, Texas A&M, etc…). Could that happen here? “Not after Oregon walloped them 70-14,” Thompson said, “That said, I do think people inside the program are eager for another chance to be more competitive against an FBS team, because that showing wasn’t historically indicative of how well Eastern has played in these contests in the past. And if this gets out of hand early, expect a lot of starters to get plenty of breaks throughout the game. The Eagles face a much more important game next weekend at Weber State.
How do the Eagles win?
- “I think the Eagles are really going to do their best to establish some kind of a running game, because that’s what gave them success against Montana State last week (the FCS runner-up a year ago) and it was severely lacking against Oregon,” Thompson said, “This is a prideful program with a rich history in the Big Sky, and they want to be better than they were against the Ducks. They want to control some possession, and that’s going to require, I think, that they can at least serviceably run the ball. How they get that done will be interesting to watch, but if they can open a few running lanes, that could make Talkington’s job easier so the Eagles can be in this game longer than they were against Oregon.
- Thompson: Florida 49-21
- Chris Will: Florida 42-21