UK rides the Ray Davis wave to victory over No. 22 Florida

WYMT Mountain News Weekend Edition newscast at 11 p.m. on Saturday
Published: Sep. 30, 2023 at 3:30 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT) - Ray Davis continues to prove he is one of the best running backs in the nation as the senior’s four touchdowns in Kentucky’s noon meeting with No. 22/23 Florida helps the Wildcats to stay undefeated on the season.

The Kentucky defense made a statement on Florida’s opening drive with solid coverage of the Gator’s run game. A three-and-out possession for UF gave UK the ball and a chance to put up the first points of the game.

Davis found the edge several times during the Cat’s first possession, putting UK in the red zone, but an incomplete pass from senior QB Devin Leary to sophomore WR Dane Key as well as a dropped TD pass by sophomore WR Barion Brown forced UK to settle for a field-goal to go up by three in the first quarter.

The missed opportunity would be avenged when junior inside linebacker Trevin Wallace intercepted the ball to give UK the ball back. This possession would end with Davis in the end zone to get the first touchdown of the game and a 10-0 lead early.

Davis would hit pay dirt once more in the first quarter with a 75-yard rushing TD with 23 seconds left in the quarter. Senior kicker Alex Raynor’s extra point was blocked, giving the Cats a 16-0 lead going into the second quarter.

The Florida defense was unable to contain the Vanderbilt transfer in any sense as Davis would score again with 8:54 to go in the second quarter. At that point in the game, Davis had already picked up 206 rushing yards.

Florida was struggling to find any offensive rhythm as five penalties in the first half cost the Gators 51 yards. By the end of the half, Kentucky gave up 154 total yards to the Florida offense compared to the 259 yards that UF’s defense gave up.

The first touchdown for the Gators came with under a minute to go in the half when the Big Blue Wall missed a Mertz-sack, allowing the Gator QB to complete a 34-yard pass to sophomore WR Caleb Douglas to get the ball within the 1-yard line. The Gators would finish the possession off with a touchdown reception from redshirt freshman tight end Hayden Hansen, to close UK’s lead to 23-7 at halftime.

It would not take long for Davis to walk right into the end zone again in the second half. With 10:54 left in the third quarter, Davis rushed up the middle for a 2-yard gain for his fourth TD of the game, extending UK’s lead to 30-7.

Billy Napier’s squad responded with a 33-yard completed pass from Mertz to senior WR Ricky Pearsall who would dive into Kentucky’s end zone, making it a two-possession game 30-14. Following this possession, the game stalled for the rest of the third quarter.

A critical false start for the Gators on a 4th-and-1 caused UF to turn the ball over to Kentucky, but the Cats were unable to convert on downs as well. The third quarter would end with UK still up by 16 points.

With 7:44 left in the game, Raynor kicked a 50-yard field goal to extend the Cat’s lead to 19 points and seal the game.

Kentucky advances to 5-0 on the season with their first ranked win of the season with a 33-14 victory in Lexington. This win marks several notable stats for the Cats; Mark Stoops earns his 50th win inside Kroger Field, Ray Davis scores every touchdown of the game and picks up 289 total yards and UK wins its third straight meeting with UF, its third all-time in program history and its first time since 1948-1951.

Here are the final game stats:

UK upsets No. 22/23 Florida in Lexington.
UK upsets No. 22/23 Florida in Lexington.(WYMT HPMOBILE3 | WYMT)

Next weekend, the Cats will look to carry this momentum as they travel to take on the No. 1 team in the country, the Georgia Bulldogs.

Below is Mark Stoops post-game news conference:

MARK STOOPS: I am just really pleased. I had mentioned it to you guys, you know, on Monday at the press conference and on Thursday, that I’ve been pleased with the team’s attitude, the preparation, the work that they have been putting in. We know we have not been perfect in some games, but I knew we were close and I told you that over and over again. And tonight, we were far from perfect. But when we did put it together, we were humming on all sides. And that’s the type of start two weeks in a row, big game, last week 11 o’clock, Noon, it doesn’t matter. If they wanted to play at nine, we would be ready. But our guys came out strong and had a tough mindset. We needed to go back to establishing the line of scrimmage, that is who we are. And to rush the ball for that many yards in the first half was really impressive by our team. I’ve been challenging the offensive line, the group, to be more consistent and to put it together and be who we are. You know, you have to give an individual shout-out to Ray Davis. What a great individual performance. He will be the first one to tell you, you know, the line obviously did a great job pushing people around, but he made people miss and he ran around people and through people and over people, you name it. Give him a lot of credit for individual effort. I think, once again, as I just told the team, there is still a lot more out there for us and we need it. We play next week, and you will have to put it all together. We were close at times today, and it could show you how good of a football team we can be when we do put it together. And I think there is a lot more out there for us. And we are going to keep on working and keep on pushing. I’m proud of the staff. I think they did an excellent job. I have to give a shout-out to all of the coaches because they really had a good plan. And the coordinators and the assistant coaches and the players have been working hard. And it is a great team win.

Q: The first down efficiency, Ray’s first two runs in the game, did you change the way you were blocking that up front?

MARK STOOPS: No. No. We dressed it up different and ran, you know, did some things a little different. But, no, we’ve been running the same plays. We mixed in some good gap schemes and that opened a form of a gap scheme. But it is really like a power with a wrap, with a puller, it gives them a little bit of candy to look at. And then some gap schemes hit them also later. And, so, we hit them off balance pretty good.

Q: The offensive line takes a lot of heat. What do you think a performance like this can do for confidence?

MARK STOOPS: It gives them a lot of confidence and pride because I know they care and have been working. I think last week with the move, with Eli (Cox) to center, I felt like we were getting closer to that and with a game under our belt. And Jager (Burton), I don’t know how he played today, I imagine better than he did last week at guard. And, so, I think Eli gives us some of that stability back at center that gives us a good starting point.

Q: Coach, the offensive line.

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I really don’t know, Lonnie. That wasn’t by intention. But (Jeremy) Flax, he has been doing a good job. He is a big dude. I don’t know, you know, I haven’t watched the film yet, but it appeared we were moving people off of the ball, yeah.

Q: The amount of beers you were asked to pound this morning, did you feel that you owed it to them?

MARK STOOPS: I had to start fast because I asked them to start fast this morning. (Laughter). I think they did. I hope they behaved well, or Mitch (Barnhart) will give me a scolding. So, I hope they behave. But, you know, we jump out at such a strong start and, you know, at the end they were kind of quiet. I’m like, they come to expect this kind of win. Do you know what I mean? I appreciate it. It was a fun environment and glad we got off to a good, fast start.

Q: Coach, we saw early on the defense made deep plays, kept them scoreless for the first half, and the long drives. When they are on the field that much, how well they played.

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I thought defense, we were close to having an excellent day. We missed a sack on that drive. It will be second and extra long. We have a good chance to get ahead of that drive. I didn’t like the way we finished the last possession offensively and the last possession defensively in the second half. We talked about it, got things corrected, and responded. We get the ball to open the second half and go right down and score a touchdown. I think that really set the tone again.

Q: The players, Deone Walker and Trevin Wallace, at the top and the interception, what did those two captains bring to the defense, the energy?

MARK STOOPS: Their leadership, they are captains for a reason. They are really good players. And they are impact players, you know, bona fide SEC players. Do you know what I mean? And could fit in and look the part anywhere.

Q: For all of those years, what does that mean?

MARK STOOPS: I hadn’t thought about that at all. This was such a big game for this moment, you know, for this team. And I am happy for that team. You know, our team, they just have been -- I guess I’ve used that word. But, like, they just knew that we were close and there was more and they have been working and working and eventually you want it to pay off. We always talk about that, like keep on working, don’t grow weary of doing right, keep on working hard, doing things right, planting those seeds and at the right moment. If you don’t, you have no chance in big games and big moments. And I think we learned a lot and we have a lot further to go. And if we keep this attitude and work ethic, good things lie ahead of us.

Q: Ray in the back, the player for the back play.

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I mean, you know, and Ray has another gear where he has that ability. The first touchdown on the screen he drug somebody or ran somebody over for a good three or four yards or whatever, and then he has the ability to make people miss. And I think he is really a complete back and certainly he has been dynamic in catching the ball in the backfield.

Q: Before this week, you have mentioned at times he was not disciplined within the run. Was that discipline today?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was there. And I don’t want to overemphasize that because Ray is a very coachable young man. You know, we just simply mentioned it in one of the games. And he is coming in here. I mean, he has great instincts, awareness, and feel. You know, I’ve said it before and I will say it again, there’s running backs we’re teaching and coaching and sometimes it is between him and God. They do what they do. They see things and have vision. The great ones have vision. In game two, we were talking about, he missed a couple that were there. It is simply talking about it, watching it, and showing him. You don’t want to over-coach that because there are times today where it was like oh, oh maybe not there and then he goes back and creates an explosive play. You know, like he is a disciplined player, very coachable player, and he has very good instincts. You don’t need to over-coach it either.

Q: Were we running out of wide receivers down at the end?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah. We were. We will see. We are getting guys banged up, yeah.

Q: Finally Eli in the game, but not really the bitter taste in the mouth.

MARK STOOPS: They needed a little joy, you know, they have been working hard. It has been a long -- they have worked hard through the summer, through camp, through the preseason. We talked about it on Monday as a team and as a unit and continue to play for each other and put all of the individual accolades aside. And we talked about walking from the meeting room on Monday and being happy for each other, no matter what they did individually and I think everybody bought into that.

Q: First quarter the last weekend, the first 25 minutes, the confidence, does it give them a confidence to hot start, to come out in those first drives?

MARK STOOPS: It does. But we have to withstand adversity, too. It will happen. And we went through a few bumps today and responded the way we should respond. And, so, you know, yes, we always want to start fast, but I’m sure at some point it will go the other way and we have to find and face adversity and handle it that way.

Q: Devin (Leary), how do you think he played today?

MARK STOOPS: I thought he missed some things early and we didn’t help him again. We had a couple of catches we should have made and that might help his confidence, too. He definitely, late in the game, missed one, it was through traffic, the third down conversion, third and three and four. I think it was a poor throw, and I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if it was deflected. I don’t know his vision. But we can’t have that because we had guys open.

Q: You talked about being committed to the running game. Your defense had not played a rushing attack like this and had to get away. What were you doing well in the defense?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, that was a big part, you are right, 29 for only 69 yards there. But, you know, they are committed to run the ball. You saw it late with critical moments when we stopped them. They don’t get away. They do what they do and that stability is credit. (Florida Head Coach Billy Napier) knows what he is doing and he is a good ball coach. But our guys were doubting us as well. And we have big guys that play the run fairly well, too. We are not perfect, but we take pride in how we play upfront.

Q : Your secondary obviously forced Florida to make more throws after limiting their rush game.

MARK STOOPS: You know, I didn’t like giving up the, you know, the long one. It was a really nice throw and catch. They hit us over routes that we had things we could play better. I don’t know what to say, misses and bust and people run with it the wrong way. Complicated routes we can play better, we know better, and they hit us on stuff that we started to adjust, and looking at it, and getting it clean up.

Q: You are 5-0, Mark. What are you pissed about today?

MARK STOOPS: I am not pissed today, John. I am not. I am not pissed today.

Q: Is there anything Deone Walker can’t do?

MARK STOOPS: No. He is a pretty athletic guy. He really is. He wears wide receiver shoes. I saw him out there and I was like, Really? Really? You are the only guy that big I’ve seen wearing wide receiver shoes.