See ya later, Gators; Davis runs for 280 yards to carry Cats past Florida for third straight year

Published 12:08 pm Monday, October 2, 2023

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By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

Florida couldn’t stop Ray Davis.

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The Kentucky running back and Vanderbilt transfer rushed for 280 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Wildcats to a 33-14 win over the 22nd-ranked Gators on Saturday at Kroger Field.

Kentucky (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) won its first five games to open the season for just the fifth time in program history and the third time in the past six years.

Les Nicholson

Behind Davis and the “Big Blue Wall” offensive line, the Wildcats notched their third consecutive win in the series for the first time since winning three straight against the Gators from 1948-51. It marked just the seventh time Kentucky has defeated a ranked Florida squad.

“We know we haven’t been perfect in some games (and) we were far from perfect (today), but when we did put it together, we were hitting on all sides of the ball, and that’s the start we’ve had two weeks in a row,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.

In one of the most memorable rushing performances in school history, Davis became just the eighth player to rush for more than 200 yards against Florida. The outing by Davis was the third-highest single-game rushing performance in program history behind Moe Williams (299) and Lynn Bowden (284).

“What a great individual performance,” Stoops said. “The offensive line obviously did a great job pushing people around, but he made some people miss and ran around some people and threw people in over people, you name it, and give him a lot of credit for some great individual effort.”

Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen agreed with Stoops and credited Davis and the offensive line for setting the tone.

“He dominated,” Stoops said. “The offensive line dominated — running the football like that, good things are going to happen.”

Although he had a busy day in the backfield, Davis quipped he was ready to take the field again.

“I could play another quarter,” he said, adding it was a “great day.”

“I didn’t really do much today,” he said. “I give credit to God and the Big Blue Wall. You’ve got to give credit to the O-line, to the tight ends and the receiving corps. Those guys blocking down the field 20 yards, staying with it, constantly going and running the ball was kind of something we were good at. didn’t make history, our line made history.”

Following his outing at Vandy last week, Davis took it upon himself to improve going into the grind of the team’s schedule.

“I went back to the lab, I got in the film room and I had to see what I was missing — the holes and what the offensive line was creating,” he said. “I think today we showed that.”

Facing the top-ranked defense in the league, Kentucky collected 329 rushing yards and 398 total yards against the Gators, who were giving up 244 yards and 13.5 points per game prior to the contest.

Setting the tone for the double-digit victory, Davis rushed for 206 yards and scored three touchdowns in the first half. In the first quarter alone, Davis collected 141 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a 9-yard catch from Devin Leary following a Trevin Wallace interception.

It was the beginning of a day of big feats for Davis and the Wildcats.

“I’m slowly getting there, you know, slowly trying to cement myself as one of the Kentucky running backs who can become great,” he said. “This is why I came to Kentucky, to be able to be in this moment, to be able to be around this — the crowd, the fans the energy — I’m happy.”

“Not a lot of positives to talk about today,” Florida coach Billy Napier said. ”Hats off to coach Stoops and Kentucky. They were ready to play and they were the more physical team.”

Florida has lost seven of eight away from Florida Field under Napier and five of six in true road games.

Kentucky is back in action Saturday at Georgia. Kick off is at 7 p.m.