Five things you need to know from Kentucky’s 45-28 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores at FirstBank Stadium:
1. Homecoming for Ray Davis. Against his former team, the Kentucky running back had a mixed showing.
Thanks to a 38-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter, Davis led Kentucky rushers with 78 yards on 17 carries. He also had touchdown runs of 2 and 1 yards, respectively.
Without the long run, however, Davis averaged only 2.5 yards a carry.
Last season in the UK-Vandy game, Davis was wearing black and gold and starred for the Commodores in their 24-21 upset of UK in Lexington. The 5-foot-10, 216-pound San Francisco product ran for 129 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries as Vanderbilt snapped a 26-game SEC losing skid.
Davis finished last season with 1,042 rushing yards and five touchdowns and also caught 29 passes for 169 yards and three TDs for Vandy.
So far this season for Kentucky, Davis has run for 314 yards (with a 6.3 yards per carry average) and five touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 137 yards and two TDs.
2. Maxwell Hairston’s revenge. Last year, an injury to Carrington Valentine forced the UK starting cornerback from the game with Kentucky clinging to a 20-17 lead.
With Vandy facing fourth-and-9 from the Kentucky 49-yard line, Maxwell Hairston had to enter the game cold to replace Valentine. Vanderbilt quarterback Mike Wright targeted Harrison, and completed a 40-yard pass to Quincy Skinner with 36 seconds left that set up the Commodores’ winning TD in a 24-21 upset.
On Saturday, Hairston got the ultimate revenge.
The 6-foot-1, 181-pound sophomore had not one, but two pick-six touchdowns vs. Vandy.
The first one, from 29 yards out, put UK ahead 14-0 with 8:49 left in the first quarter.
Hairston’s second interception return for a TD, from 54 yards out with 4:15 left in the game, put UK ahead 45-21 and sealed the Wildcats’ fourth straight victory vs. Vandy on its home field.
3. The Kentucky defense came up big. On a day when the UK offense played a strong first quarter, then struggled for much of the next two quarters, the UK “D” (mostly) stood tall.
A relentless Wildcats pass rush harried Vanderbilt QB AJ Swann into three interceptions — all three of which ultimately yielded points for UK.
Maxwell Hairston returned the first pick 27 yards for a first-quarter TD. A D’Eryk Jackson pick in the third quarter — buoyed by a post-pick lateral and return by Andru Phillips in the third quarter gave the Cats a short field and set up a 1-yard Ray Davis TD run. In the fourth quarter, Hairston struck again, returning a Swann interception 54 yards for UK’s final TD.
The Cats recorded only one sack, but were credited with eight quarterback hurries. Tennessee native Keaten Wade led the “hurry parade” for UK with two. Defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine was an active presence with a team-high six tackles.
It was the most-impressive showing of the season to date for Brad White’s defensive unit. With Florida coming to town, it is a good time for the UK “D” to dial in.
4. Cats get sophomore receivers going. A week after Barion Brown caught only two passes and Dane Key none in UK’s 35-3 win over Akron, the UK offensive brain trust made a clear effort to get the wide-outs going.
Brown had four catches for 105 yards. Key caught four balls for 58 yards.
5. Stoops stats. With the victory, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops now has a winning record, 6-5, in SEC openers.
Overall, Stoops is 33-50 in Southeastern Conference games. After starting his UK career, 4-21 vs. SEC opponents, Stoops has gone 29-29 since.
Stoops is now 70-59, overall, as Kentucky coach. After starting 12-26, he has subsequently gone 58-33.
For its first SEC contest and first road game of 2023, Kentucky wore silver chrome helmets, white jerseys with blue letters and numbers and white pants.
Since the start of the 2020 season, Kentucky is now 5-3 in its last eight games in silver chrome helmets.