LATER GATOR: Wildcats topple Florida thanks to Davis’ 4 TD’s
The Kentucky Wildcats football team (5-0, 2-0 SEC) topped the No. 22 Florida Gators (3-2, 1-1 SEC) 33-14 Saturday afternoon at Kroger Field.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Kentucky Wildcats football team (5-0, 2-0 SEC) topped the No. 22 Florida Gators (3-2, 1-1 SEC) 33-14 Saturday afternoon at Kroger Field.
Despite being unranked, the Wildcats were favored by one point heading into the match up. The Big Blue Nation was loud and proud for the sell-out as SEC Nation broadcast outside the stadium.
On UK’s opening drive, fifth-year quarterback Devin Leary’s pass on third down fell incomplete to sophomore wide receiver Barion Brown and the Cats had to settle for a 24-yard field goal from senior Alex Raynor. On the second Kentucky drive, Leary found fifth-year running back Ray Davis on a nine-yard touchdown pass to put the Wildcats up 10-0. With less than 30 seconds to go in the first quarter, Davis broke open a 75-yard run to score, a career-long for the transfer. Raynor’s field goal was blocked, so UK led 16-0 after a quarter.
Florida came into the game as fifth in the country in total defense, but it didn’t seem to matter to Davis. In the second quarter he found the end zone again as UK marched it 80 yards on seven plays, eating nearly four minutes off the clock, capped by a Davis three-yard rush to make it 23-0, UK. Davis would eclipse 200 rushing yards in the first half. Just before halftime. Florida found it’s way into the end zone when redshirt junior quarterback Graham Mertz found redshirt freshman tight end Hayden Hansen on a four-yard touchdown pass. It was 23-7, Kentucky heading into the locker room at the half.
During halftime, UK honored it’s 2023 Athletics Hall of Fame inductees: Robin Ewing Bodem (gymnastics), Chris Chenault (football), Danielle Galyer Day (swimming), Dick Parsons (baseball/basketball), Rajon Rondo (basketball) and Ryan Strieby (baseball).
Davis didn’t come out of halftime cold- with 10:54 on the clock in the third quarter, he had another two-yard rushing touchdown to give the Wildcats a 30-7 lead. Florida answered a few minutes later with Mertz connecting with senior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall on a 33-yard touchdown pass to cut the Gator deficit to 16. It would be 30-14, Kentucky heading into the fourth.
With 7:44 left to play, Raynor hit a career-long 50-yard field goal to extend UK’s lead, making it 33-14, which would be the final score.
Davis finished with 26 carries for 280 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He averaged more than a first down per carry. He had two targets, and one catch for nine yards and a score through the air. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Vanderbilt transfer became just the eighth player to rush for 200 yards against Florida. The list includes: Georgia’s Hershel Walker (twice), South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, and Miami’s Willis McGahee.
Leary finished 9-20 for one touchdown. The Florida defense held the Wildcats to just 69 passing yards and they were 1/9 on third down.
Senior inside linebacker D’Eryk Jackson, senior outside linebacker JJ Weaver and sophomore defensive lineman Deone Walker each had a sack on Mertz. Junior inside linebacker Trevin Wallace had an interception. Sophomore defensive back Maxwell Hairston led the defense in tackles with ten (8 solo, 0.5 TFL).
Mertz went 25/30 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Up next for the Wildcats: a road trip to Athens to face the No.1 Georgia Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 SEC). The Cats and Dawgs are set for a 7:00 P.M. kickoff inside Stanford Stadium on ESPN.
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