Ray Davis rushes for career-high 280 yards and scores 4 TDs, Kentucky dominates No. 22 Florida 33-14

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Florida coach Billy Napier gets another shot at ending rivalry skid vs No. 11 Tennessee

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Ray Davis gave an encouraging glimpse of what was to come for Kentucky on his first three carries against Florida.

He totaled 33 yards and was on the way to one of the best games a Wildcats running back has ever had.

Davis rushed for a career-high 280 yards and scored four touchdowns, including three in the first half, as Kentucky overwhelmed the 22nd-ranked Gators 33-14 on Saturday.

The Wildcats (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) turned a matchup considered critical toward establishing an East Division challenger behind top-ranked Georgia into a rout before halftime thanks to Davis’ dominant day.

The Vanderbilt transfer established a career rushing best with 206 yards before the break alone in addition to scoring runs of 3 and 75 yards, the latter virtually untouched after bursting through a hole on the left side.

Davis also charged for a 9-yard TD reception that made it 10-0, getting a little assist at the goal line from guard Eli Cox. He added 2-yard TD run early in the third quarter on the way to a 26-carry day for the third-highest single-game rushing total in program history and the first 200-yard effort since Chris Rodriguez Jr. had 207 against Missouri in September 2021.

A week after rushing for 78 yards and a TD on 17 attempts against his former team, Davis figured he needed redemption in a game that Kentucky needed.

“I really didn’t do a whole lot today,” Davis said. “You’ve got to give credit to the O-line and the receiver corps. These guys were blocking downfield. I was just staying with it.”

Kentucky outrushed Florida 329-69, its first 300-yard performance since gaining 362 against Louisville two years ago.

More impressively, the Wildcats totaled 398 yards against the SEC’s top overall and scoring defense, which entered the game yielding just 224 yards and 13.5 points per outing. The Wildcats also beat the Gators (3-2, 1-1) for the third consecutive time — their first such streak since winning four in a row from 1948-51 — and fourth in six meetings.

“We were far from perfect,” coach Mark Stoops said, “but when we did put it together, we were humming on all sides. … Our guys came out strong and that’s something I said we needed to go back to, establishing the line of scrimmage. That’s who we are.”

Graham Mertz threw a 4-yard TD pass to Hayden Hansen just before halftime and a 33-yard score to Ricky Pearsall in the third quarter. Mertz completed 25 of 30 passes for 244 yards, but was sacked three times.

He was also intercepted by Trevin Wallace, who snatched defensive tackle Deone Walker’s deflection of a pass intended for Arlis Boardingham and returned it 21 yards to the Florida 15 and set up Davis’ first score.

“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.

THE TAKEAWAY

Florida: The Gators reached the end zone after settling for five field goals against Charlotte, but it was too late by then as just about everything else failed against Kentucky. Their defense barely laid a hand on Davis, whose big TD run came after the special teams was flagged for a costly leaping penalty on a punt.

“I think the early morning game had a factor in it, to be honest,” inside linebacker Shemar James said. “We came out very flat defensively and we kind of got it together in the second half, but you have to start fast to finish (on) top in the SEC.”

Kentucky: Davis took a huge step toward establishing himself as the SEC’s top runner with a monster day. Alex Raynor made two field goals, including a career-long 50-yarder. The Wildcats were aggressive in most every phase, just what they needed with a bigger challenge looming at Georgia next week.

BETTER EXECUTION

Kentucky didn’t allow quarterback Devin Leary to be sacked, finished without a turnover and were penalized just three times for 25 yards, a big shift after four games in which they looked shaky and penalty prone.

“The O-line came off and mentioned they felt like they could get some movement in the run game,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “We got the (illegal jumping) penalty on the punt, and the 75-yarder, you’re like, ‘Ok, we have something.’ The offensive line played great, the tight ends blocked, the receivers blocked.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida should exit the rankings after being swamped by Kentucky, which made a strong case toward getting in after earning 41 votes last week.

UP NEXT

Florida hosts Vanderbilt next Saturday.

Kentucky visits the top-ranked Bulldogs.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll