GAINESVILLE — John and Kendra Coury don’t have power at their Redington Beach home, but they found their way to Gainesville on Sunday morning to soak in a sunny day in The Swamp with their Florida Gators.

After Hurricane Ian devastated the state this week with a biblical storm surge, savage winds and soaking rains, a Sunday with college football was a welcome distraction.

“It’s been a long week,” Kendra said Sunday morning. “We lost power about 3 hours after the storm hit and didn’t have it when we left this morning. But we had tickets, the weather looked perfect, and we just wanted to see the Gators play. We’ll worry about the rest of it tomorrow, you know?”

Tom Davis, of Cape Coral, felt the same way.

“I have extended family in Fort Myers whose dream homes are now concrete slabs,” Davis said, soaking in a surreal Sunday morning tailgate scene from his usual post on campus by Library West, facing University Avenue. “We will need a new roof on our home, and the one that was damaged by this storm we put in just 2 summers ago. But I planned to take my son to this game in June and nothing was going to stop that plan. It’s a day for dads and sons and daughters.”

It will take the state of Florida, especially those in Southwest Florida and along Florida’s gulf coast and within the I-4 corridor, a long time to recover from the destruction brought by Ian. Over a million Floridians are still without power on Sunday afternoon, per the office of Florida governor Ron DeSantis. At least 44 people lost their lives, per the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission. In tiny St. Cloud, just southeast of Orlando, the combinaton of rainwater and an already high Lake Tohopekaliga forced a Sunday evacuation, as floodwaters threatened homes days after the rains stopped. The insurance tab for Ian’s damage will be in the billions and the human cost, from the loss of lives to the loss of homes and fortunes, will be difficult to calculate.

But for one sun-splashed Sunday in The Swamp, there were smiles and joy.

“We didn’t know what to expect, really,” Todd Thompson, of Clearwater, said from the bed of his F-150 Sunday morning, gathering coal for his grill. Thompson made the trip with his wife, 8-year old son and two teenage daughters. They attend one Gators game a season, and in recent years, have chosen one against a lesser opponent, to make sure they can involve their young son.

“We didn’t know how many fans would be here, what the mood would be, any of it,” Thompson said. “But we felt like for a day at least, it would be nice not to think about what so many folks have lost. We just wanted to cheer and sing Tom Petty and feel good.”

The Gators certainly did their part in granting the Thompson family’s wish, and leaving smiles on the faces of so many others who made the trip after a terrible week.

Florida routed overmatched Eastern Washington 52-17, looking stylish in the process. The Gators scored on 3 plays of 60 yards or more, including their first offensive play from scrimmage, where Anthony Richardson threw a strike to a streaking Justin Shorter.

Florida’s sophomore quarterback played just 2 1/2 quarters, but finished his day with 185 yards passing and 2 touchdowns and one spectacular 45-yard run on his only carry of the game. On the day, the Florida offense gained 663 yards, just 1 week removed from compiling 596 yards against Tennessee. For all of Florida’s warts — and there were some Sunday afternoon — the Gators appear potent on offense.

Florida’s defense brought smiles, too.

Maybe not on 2 Eastern Washington possessions, where Florida struggled to fit run gaps and allowed Eastern Washington to march into the Florida red zone on two occasions. That was a cause for concern. The Florida response, however, was not, as the Gators bowed up and forced several Eagles punts and a turnover in building a 52-3 lead before reserves conceded 2 touchdowns late. The Gators’ list of great performances ranged from the veteran leaders to true freshmen. Brenton Cox Jr., a senior who entered the game among the SEC leaders in quarterback pressures but with 0 sacks, finally picked up a sack (and 2 tackles for loss). Freshman safety, Miguel Mitchell, forced a fumble, and two other true freshmen, Kamari Wilson and Shemar James, registered tackles for loss. The Gators played 6 true freshmen on defense, telling recruits watching that Billy Napier means what he says when he tells parents he’ll only sign players who have the ability to play immediately.

There will be tougher days ahead, both for the Gators and, of course, for the people of Florida.

Houses will need to be rebuilt. Churches, synagogues and schools will, too. Infrastructure will need to be repaired and replaced. Even as the Gators played, rescue efforts continued for the missing and maimed. But Sunday, as Florida strolled to victory, relief efforts were underway and the larger Gators community was coming together.

Outside The Swamp, an American Red Cross table took donations and pledges for Ian relief. The Florida Disaster Fund collected donations too, and both the University of Florida website and the scoreboards suggested the fund as a place to offer assistance. Finally, Florida’s coaching staff and volunteers on campus pushed for contributions to Aid-a-Gator, which offers financial assistance to students experiencing unexpected expenses as a result of Hurricane Ian. These organizations and relief funds, all linked above, are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s needed and what’s to come.

But smiles and distractions help heal us too. Sunday’s big Gators win in The Swamp? That was a welcome distraction in a week filled with too much destruction. Perhaps in the weeks to come, this improving Florida football team will offer more smiles to fans like the Courys, Davises and Thompsons. On Sunday, one day in the sun without the sadness meant everything.

“For today, at least, we aren’t worried about what our community has to do back at home,” Davis said. “That’s why we love sports, right? The chance to forget and have fun for a while?”