The Kentucky Wildcats made easy work of the Florida Gators this past weekend, cruising to a 33-14 victory and improving to 5-0.
Questions were asked of the legitimacy and difficulty of Kentucky’s first four victories after defeating two lower-level MAC teams in Ball State and Akron, a sluggish start against FCS Eastern Kentucky, and a weak Vanderbilt squad as the team’s only SEC opponent prior to its date with Florida.
The Wildcats would respond, however, with a statement win over the Gators to announce themselves as a contender in the SEC East this season.
After entering the latest AP Poll and Coaches Poll, checking in at No. 20 in both, here are some of the key performers from Saturday’s win and a few players that are trending in the wrong direction.
Ray Davis: Boy did Ray Davis have a day against Florida. What else can be said that hasn’t already been said about the California native’s performance? Davis ran for 280 yards on first-year defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong’s defense, the third most in a single game in UK history.
In the first quarter alone, Davis ran for 141 yards, which included a career-long 75-yard touchdown run. He would finish the half with a career-high 206 rushing yards to go along with a nine-yard touchdown grab, a 75-yard touchdown run, and a three-yard touchdown run.
Davis would run for another 74 yards and another touchdown that saw Florida with 13 players on the field, which still couldn’t stop him from finding his way to the end zone for his fourth score of the day.
Offensive line: Vintage Mark Stoops Kentucky victory. That is what so many Kentucky fans have been so eager to see from the offensive line. The Big Blue Wall re-emerged against the Gators as the Cats ran all over Florida with 329 yards as a team.
To add to the run game, Kentucky’s offensive line protected Devin Leary all day, as he was not sacked a single time in the win after allowing 47 sacks, the fifth most in the nation last season.
Defense: The Kentucky defense seems to be one of the best units in the SEC. Brad White’s defense held Florida’s run game to just 69 rushing yards off 29 attempts for just 2.4 yards per carry.
Florida would leave Kroger Field with just 14 points as quarterback Graham Mertz was sacked three times, completing 25/30 passes for 244 yards and throwing an interception to Trevin Wallace.
Kentucky would go on to record nine tackles for loss. Showing just how active and how often the unit was flying around, 10 Wildcat defenders registered at least 0.5 TFL against the Gators.
Devin Leary and his wide receivers: Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for the offensive line and Davis in the run game, this game could have very well been a different outcome, as the passing game struggled mightily to find any real rhythm yet again.
Leary would have his ugliest game in blue yet as he went 9/20 for 69 yards and one touchdown pass. He also had a would-be pick-six dropped by Florida’s Jason Marshall Jr.
The NC State transfer, however, was not alone in blame for this.
Barion Brown would finish with just 37 receiving yards after dropping a would-be touchdown that forced the Wildcats to settle for three on the game’s opening drive, with Dane Key also struggling with drops after failing to make a catch on a pass on 3rd and 9 in the third quarter.
Making matters worse is Brown and Tayvion Robinson got dinged up, putting their status for Saturday in doubt. Losing either would be massive against Georgia’s defense and put even more pressure on Leary.
Stoops has now won three in a row over Florida, and he’s beaten Tennessee twice. He has ended streaks that most Kentucky fans grew up with, but if he has any hope to top No. 1 Georgia in the final year of the SEC East, who has opened as a 15-point favorite over the Cats, his quarterback and supposed star receivers need to step up and make plays.