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Kentucky and Ray Davis dominated on the ground in a dominating 33-14 win over the Florida Gators in Lexington. Star RB Ray Davis accumulated 289 total yards and 4 touchdowns in the big ‘Cats win. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Kentucky ran the ball 36 times for a game total of 329 total rushing yards. The ‘Cats struggled throwing the ball throughout the game, continuing to leave Big Blue Nation with questions about QB Devin Leary. Leary finished the game with 9 completions on 20 passing attempts with a total of just 69 passing yards and 1 TD with 0 INT. The ‘Cats defense continued their early season dominance against the run, holding Florida to just 69 rushing yards. The ‘Cats defense attacked early and often in the backfield, amassing 9 TFL and 3 sacks in the game. The ‘Cats will look to continue their upward trajectory as they head to Athens to take on No. 1 Georgia next weekend.
Kentucky Football entered their Saturday showdown with the No. 22 Florida Gators with an undefeated record of 4-0 on the season, coming off their first SEC win of the season on the road last weekend over Vanderbilt (45-28). The game served as the first real test for the ‘Cats after a soft early season schedule. Kentucky started their SEC season strong in the first half against Vanderbilt, jumping out to an early 24-0 lead before the team lifted the pressure and allowed the Commadores to get back into the game before halftime. Still, the ‘Cats led 24-10 at the half. The ‘Cats continued to display some early season miscues and lapse of focus throughout the third quarter before re-establishing their dominance in route to a 45-28 victory to open SEC play. Devin Leary finished the game with 205 yards while adding in a touchdown and 2 INT. The ‘Cats finally got their running game rolling with Ray Davis totaling 78 rush yards on 17 carries and 2 TDs. In total, the ‘Cats ran for 160 yards in the game, their best game total of the season. Sophomore WR Barion Brown also had his best receiving output of the year with 4 receptions for 105 yards. Fellow Sophomore WR Dane Key also started to regain focus and return to his high potential production level mixing in 4 receptions for 58 yards and an athletic TD catch. Defensively for Kentucky, Sophomore DB Maxwell Hairston had one of the best individual performances in Kentucky history for the ‘Cats. Hairston tied the SEC record with 2 INT for touchdowns in the game while adding 3 PBU and 4 tackles.
Florida entered Saturday’s matchup with a 3-1 record on the season with their biggest win coming over then No. 11 Tennessee (29-16) a couple weeks ago. Their lone loss on the season came on the road to kick off the year at then No. 14 Utah by a score of 24-11. The Gators entered the game ranked No. 22 in the latest AP Top 25 poll. The Gators offense runs through transfer QB Graham Mertz and the running game. So far, the Gators offensive success comes with the running game with Trevor Etienne (brother of Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne) and Montrell Johnson Jr. The two have combined for 95 carries totaling 540 yards and 5 TDs on the ground this year. Mertz has accumulated just 4 TDs and 1 INT through 4 games this season, averaging 237.8 yards/game in the air. The primary Gators target on the receiving side is Senior WR Ricky Pearsall, who has collected 26 receptions for 362 yards and a TD this season. Florida’s defense is ranked 25th in the country, allowing just 13.5 PPG, while the ‘Cats defense checked in ranked 33rd, allowing 15.5 PPG.
Some keys to the game for the ‘Cats included getting off to a fast start offensively and keeping their focus and offensive gameplan throughout the game. The ‘Cats offense has shown short spurts of its potential early in the season but has yet to put a complete game together on the offensive side. Devin Leary’s individual performance in the game could directly impact the outcome. Other keys to the game include establishing the running game with Davis and McClain with the ‘Cats offensive line. Controlling the time of possession and giving the defense time to rest should help the ‘Cats execute their gameplan. Key, Brown, and Robinsons playmaking ability gives the ‘Cats offensive weapons to create big plays throughout the game if the timing is down with Leary and the receivers. Defensively, limiting first downs and long drives is key. Putting the Gators behind the chains and forcing punts allows the ‘Cats to find their rhythm offensively. Pressuring the QB and limiting WR Pearsall for the ‘Cats should help them gain the advantage at home.
The spread for Saturday’s SEC showdown was -1 (UK), with an Over/Under set at 43.5.
The ‘Cats won the coin toss and elected to differ to the second half. The Gators received the ball first and began their first drive on their own 25-yard line. The first Gators play was a short 1-yard run by Johnson Jr. The ‘Cats recorded their first sack of the game on the next play, with D’Eryk Jackson getting to Mertz. A third down draw play by Florida got the Gators the first down, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty by the Gators. The ‘Cats forced a Florida punt on their first defensive series of the game. The first Kentucky offensive series began on their own 12-yard line. The first ‘Cats play of the game saw Ray Davis take a 10-yard gain and a first down. Davis took the next carry for another first down and a gain of 19-yards. Barion Brown took a screen pass for the third Kentucky first down of the drive and a gain of 6-yards. Brown again picked up a first down on a third-down play for the ‘Cats, picking up 9-yards. Davis took the next play 22-yards inside the Florida 10-yard line, with a horse collar tackle putting the ‘Cats even closer to the end-zone. Brown dropped an easy touchdown pass from Leary as the ‘Cats were forced to kick a 24-yard field goal to take an early 3-0 lead with 7:13-minutes to play in the first quarter. Ray Davis tallied 5 carries for 60 yards on the drive. Mertz missed an open target on a deep pass on first down to begin the next Gators drive. Trevin Wallace intercepted a bobbled catch and returned the interception to the Florida 15-yard line. After a 6-yard carry by Davis on first down, caught a screen pass from Leary and fought his way into the endzone for the ‘Cats for a 9-yard touchdown reception. Eli Cox aided Davis in helping to pull him into the endzone. The ‘Cats took a 10-0 lead with 5:37-minutes to play in the quarter. The next Florida drive began with another missed throw by Mertz to an open Gators receiver. Florida picked up their first first-down of the game on a 13-yard catch by Jackson. The Gators picked up another first down on a 3rd-and-short run to push the ball into Kentucky territory. Deone Walker recorded his first sack of the game on the next play for a loss of 8-yards on the play. On the next 2nd-and-18 play, the ‘Cats nearly picked off another Mertz throw, forcing a third-and-long. Keaton Wade tracked down Mertz on the third down, limiting Mertz to just a 4-yard gain, forcing another Gator punt. The next Kentucky drive began on the Kentucky 10-yard line with 57-seconds to play in the quarter. The ‘Cats drive ended after a 3-and-out with 3 incomplete passes. A Florida player leaped over the line of Kentucky on the punt, resulting in a penalty and a new set of downs for Kentucky. The next Kentucky play saw Ray Davis take a carry 75-yards (career long) for a touchdown run. The Gators blocked the PAT as the ‘Cats took a 16-0 lead with 23-seconds to play in the first quarter. The final play of the quarter again saw the ‘Cats defense swarm the line-of-scrimmage to tackle Etienne for a 1-yard loss. The ‘Cats led 16-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The ‘Cats defense got caught for a holding penalty to open the second quarter, resulting in a Florida first down. An athletic tackle in the open field by Oxendine put the Gators in a third-and-4 situation. The ‘Cats defense stuffed a Gators run to force another punt. The Florida punt landed in the Kentucky endzone for a touchback. Another 16-yard first down run for Davis pushed the ‘Cats forward on offense, followed by another gash of 33-yards the next play. Ramon Jefferson took his first carry of the game for a gain of 4-yards, pushing the ‘Cats to the Florida 27-yard line. A 14-yard end-around run by Brown inched the ‘Cats closer to the endzone. Davis re-entered the game to take another carry for 13-yards and another Kentucky first down to the Gators 3-yard line. Davis took the next carry for his third TD of the game to put the ‘Cats in front 23-0 after the PAT with 8:54-minutes to play in the half. Davis has accumulated 11 carries for 206 yards (career-high) and 2 TDs on the ground to this point, adding in a 9-yard TD reception. Another athletic open field tackle, this time by Afari, prevented a big first-down play by the Gators. D’Eryk Jackson had a booming tackle on the next play to force a 3rd-and-7. Mertz completed a 3rd down pass to Jackson for a first down. Andru Phillips broke up a deep shot to Pearsall on the next play. After an unsportsmanlike penalty, the ‘Cats defensive prevailed and forced the fourth Florida punt of the game. The next ‘Cats drive began on their own 20-yard line with 5:01-minutes to play in the half. Brown caught a 12-yard pass for a new set of downs for the ‘Cats on their own 34-yard line. The Gators dropped an interception on a third-down attempt from Leary, forcing a Kentucky punt with 2:56-minutes to play. Florida finally gained chunk yardage on back-to-back plays from Pearsall and Etienne gaining 20-yards and 16-yards, respectively. Mertz then found Douglass for a big gain of 34-yards to the Kentucky 1-yard line with 1:18-minutes to play. The Gators scored their first touchdown of the game with Mertz finding Hansen for a 4-yard score. The touchdown cut the Kentucky lead to 23-7 with 34-seconds to play in the half. The halftime score was 23-7 Kentucky. The ‘Cats gained 259 total yards in the first half (36 passing, 223 rushing) while holding the Gators to 154 total yards (108 passing, 46 rushing). QB Devin Leary finished the half completing just 4 of 12 passes for 36 total yards and 1 TD. Ray Davis carried the offensive load for the ‘Cats in the first half, totaling 215 total yards (206 rushing, 9 receiving) and 3 TDs in the half. WR Barion Brown led the passing attack for the ‘Cats with 3 receptions for 27 yards. The Kentucky defense totaled 2 sacks and 4 TFL in the half.
Halftime: Kentucky 23 – Florida 7
The ‘Cats began the second half with a 32-yard kickoff return by Brown to the Kentucky 32-yard line. Robinson recorded his first catch of the game on a second down attempt, gaining 11-yards and a first down for Kentucky. Davis broke another big gain on the next play, a 31-yard carry to the Florida 23-yard line. Brown caught a 10-yard pass for the third first down of the opening second half drive for Kentucky. Florida was penalized for pass interference on a 3rd-and-3 attempt for the ‘Cats, pushing the ball to the Florida 2-yard line and a new set of downs. Davis rushed in his fourth touchdown of the game on the next play. The ‘Cats led 30-7 with 10:54-minutes to play in the third quarter. Florida moved the ball well to begin their first drive of the half, with Afari finally setting the Gators back with a TFL on 2nd down. The ‘Cats defense stopped Mertz short of the first-down on the next play, forcing a 4th down attempt for Florida. Mertz escaped the sack, tossing a pass to Etienne as he was falling to the ground. Etienne took the pass 10-yards for a first down. Mertz found Pearsall for a 33-yard touchdown on the next play. The touchdown and PAT narrowed the ‘Cats lead back down to 16 with a score of 30-14 Kentucky with 7:17-minutes to play in the third quarter. The first play of the next offensive series for the ‘Cats saw Robinson reel in a 12-yard first down catch. On a 3rd-and-9 play, Leary found an open receiver in Dane Key, who dropped the pass that would have resulted in a first down. Florida began their next drive on their own 15-yard line with 4:49-minutes to play in the quarter. The ‘Cats defense held strong on their next opportunity, forcing a 4th-and-1 on Florida’s own 29-yard line. The Gators went for the fourth down and the home crowd caused a false start on the offensive line that forced Florida to punt the ball away. Kentucky received the punt on their own 25-yard line to start their next drive. The Gators defense forced a Kentucky 3-and-out and Berry punted the ball to the Gators 13-yard line with 1:10-minutes to play in the quarter. Keeshawn Silver stopped an Etienne run for a loss of 1-yard on the first play of the series. The score at the end of the third quarter was 30-14 Kentucky.
The first play of the fourth quarter saw the Gators gain a first down on a Mertz QB sneak. A massive sack by JJ Weaver for a loss of 13-yards set the Gators behind the chains for 2nd-and-23 for Florida. The ‘Cats stopped a 3rd-and-9 run attempt to force a 4th-and-4 attempt for the Gators on their own 44-yard line. Afari stopped the Gators short and the ‘Cats took over on downs to begin their next offensive series on the Floria 47-yard line with 11:24-minutes to play. Davis took back-to-back carries for gains of 5 and 9 yards to get a new set of downs for the ‘Cats. Raynor nailed a 50-yard field goal for the ‘Cats to push the lead to a three-score game at 33-14 ‘Cats with 7:44-minutes to play. The Gators moved the ball well to begin the next drive on offense, pushing the ball into Wildcats territory with just under 6-minutes to play. The ‘Cats defense stiffened, forcing a 3rd-and-11. Florida went for a 4th-and-2 and the ‘Cats defense, led by Wade, stopped the Gators short. The ‘Cats took over on downs on their own 44-yard line with 4:03-minutes to play. After a face-mask penalty on Florida, Sumo-Karngbaye scurried for a 28-yard gain to the Florida 9-yard line with 2:30-minutes to play. The ‘Cats ran out the clock after the first down carry and the ‘Cats went on to defeat the Florida Gators by a score of 33-14.
Final: Kentucky 33 – Florida 14
Kentucky – 398 (69 Passing, 329 Rushing)
Florida – 313 (244 Passing, 69 Rushing)
Turnover Differential: (+ 1 Kentucky)
Kentucky 0 – Florida 1
Time of Possession:
Kentucky – 28:46 minutes
Florida – 31:14 minutes
Devin Leary – [(9 comp – 20 att) (69 yds) (1 TD) (0 INT)]
Ray Davis – [(26 car) (280 rush yds) (3 rush TD), (1 rec) (9 rec yds) (1 rec TD)]
Barion Brown – [(4 rec) (37 yds)]
Maxwell Hairston – [(10 totTk) (8 solo) (0.5 TFL)]
Alex Afari Jr. – [(9 totTk) (5 solo) (1 TFL)]
D’Eryk Jackson – [(5 totTk) (3 solo) (1 sack) (1.5 TFL) (1 PBU)]
Trevin Wallace – [(2 totTk) (2 solo) (1 INT)]
The ‘Cats (5-0, 2-0 SEC) will head to Athens next weekend to take on the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 SEC) on October 7. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on ESPN.