Davis finds ‘another gear’ in 280-yard performance against No. 22 Florida

Ray Davis’ record-breaking performance on Saturday may lead to a pricier bill later in the future. 

Davis said he “didn’t really do much” on Saturday when he rushed for 280 yards and three touchdowns during Kentucky’s 33-14 win over No. 22 Florida. Instead turned the credit to the Wildcats offensive line and those who protected and opened the gaps for him to run through. 

“I’m definitely going to take those guys out to dinner,” Davis said. “I got to take the tight ends and the O-line. It’ll probably run a hole in my pocket but I think for rushing for 300 yards total as a group, I don’t know what that check is going to be like but I’m not going to want to see it.”

PODCAST: Davis finds ‘another gear’ in 280-yard performance against No. 22 Florida

Whatever the price, it came after a massive payout on Saturday. Kentucky claimed its third-consecutive victory over Florida and moved to 5-0 atop the Southeastern Conference East Division. 

Davis got his day going by rushing for 60 yards after Kentucky’s first possession. Later in the first quarter he caught a 9-yard touchdown thrown by quarterback Devin Leary. 

Davis said he “didn’t even really know” about his largely producitve performance throughout most of the game, and he remained focus on getting the final result the Wildcats hoped for. 

“I think after the big run I had ran at that point I was like, ‘I think I’ve only got like 75 yards, like something like that.’ And I wasn’t really too into it,” Davis said. “I was trying to keep my head in the game. I think once you start to focus on the statistical part of the game that’s when you start to lose your mojo and your juice. Guys are coming up to me and congratulating me, but I’m like it’s only the first quarter. We got to keep going. We got to keep pounding, and the results show today with getting the W.”

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Davis broke off a 75-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the first quarter that propped his totals to 141 rushing yards and two touchdowns from scrimmage. 

He later added runs of 33 and 31 yards among touchdown rushes of 3 and 2 yards. By the end of the first half, Davis had a career-high 206 rushing yards. 

The journey didn’t always begin at Kentucky for Davis. A native of San Francisco, Davis began his college career spending two seasons at Temple before he played the past two seasons at Vanderbilt. He was tasked with replacing former Wildcats running back Christopher Rodriguez Jr., who was a two-time captain and ranked among the top backs in Kentucky history. 

“I’m just blessed to be here,” Davis said. “I’m blessed for the opportunity that coach (Mark) Stoops provided for me, blessed for the coaching staff when they recruited me in the portal and they just thought that I can come in. Again, I had some big shoes to fill and I think today I’m slowly getting there.  I’m slowly trying to cement myself as one of the Kentucky running backs who can become great. But honestly, I mean, 5-0, but we’re trying to go 1-0 each and every day, so it’s about trying to go 1-0 next week against Georgia.”

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Davis’ 2021 season, his first at Vanderbilt, saw him sidelined for most of the season with a knee injury. 

But his return in 2022 saw him land among semifinalists for Comeback Player of the Year after a 1,042-yard season, making him the 10th Commodore to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. 

On Saturday, the Wildcats saw much of what Vanderbilt and Temple did in Davis. 

“Ray has another gear where he has that ability,” Stoops said. “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 that ability to make people miss, and then you saw top end today. So I think he’s really a complete back and certainly he’s been dynamic with catching the ball out of the backfield.” 

And Davis saw much of what he can be in himself. 

“(It’s) just about being ready in that moment and understanding, ‘Hey when your number’s called you got it.’ This is the moment you live for. These are moments I came here. This is why I came to Kentucky to be able to be in this moment, to be able to be around this crowd, these fans and enjoy the energy and I’m happy.”

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Davis’ 280-yard rushing performance will be one for the Kentucky history books. It ties him for third in program history for single-game rushing totals. 

Whether he’s rushing for more than 200 yards or taking his teammates to dinner, Davis is all about generating energy. He took a page from one sports star’s book and applied it to his own leading the way to a big day. 

“The eye black, I had to channel my LeBron,” Davis said. “I think, what was it, I’m going to say 2016 Finals when they wore the black unis he was like, ‘We got to be the bad guys,’ and that was the mantra I had today was I got to be the bad guy. When I step on that field no more being nice. I got to go out there and wake the world up, and I think today I did it a little bit. I think the world kind of knows who I am. But again, I got to keep stacking days. I can’t be content with this.”