College football final: Kentucky Wildcats 35, Akron Zips 3

After a 28-17 win over Eastern Kentucky last Saturday, Kentucky welcome the Akron Zips for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in UK’s last non-conference game before its SEC opener.

The Herald-Leader staff will be well represented at Kroger Field. Follow me on Twitter at @johnclayiv, as well as Jon Hale at @JonHale_HL, Mark Story at @markcstory and Caroline Makauskas at @cmakauskas.

You can follow a UK football Twitter list here.

Final score: Kentucky 35, Akron 3

Kentucky defeats Akron 35-3

UK improved to 3-0 with its 35-3 win over the Zips. Now the Cats head out for the first road trip of the season, next Saturday at Vanderbilt. It’s also the SEC opener for Mark Stoops’ team. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.

Final stats

Kentucky tacks on another touchdown

Kaiya Sheron remained in the game at quarterback as UK took over at own 38 with 5:07 left. Second play, Demie Sumo-Karnbaye ripped off a 42-yard run. Two plays later, Sumo-Karnbaye scored his first TD as a Wildcat, from four yards out. Kentucky leads 35-3 with 3:04 to play.

Devin Leary knocked out of the game — for a play?

UK quarterback Devin Leary left the game after taking a big hit on a second-and-10 incompletion with 9:34 left. Kaiya Sheron came in at QB and threw an incompletion, forcing a UK punt. Leary was standing on sideline as if he was ready to return. We shall see.

A muffed punt doesn’t hurt the Cats

Kentucky’s Tayvion Robinson muffed an Akron punt with the Zips recovering at the UK 23 with 11:19 left. Brad White’s defense did the job, forcing a fourth-and-7. Joe Moorhead opted for a field goal, but Noah Perez missed the 38-yard attempt. Perez is 1-for-3 for the game.

Kentucky has now committed three turnovers on the night. Jordan Dingle and Robinson have each lost fumbles. Devin Leary has thrown one interception to go with his three touchdown passes.

Ray Davis goes 55 yards for another touchdown

After taking a short Devin Leary pass 58 yards for a touchdown, Ray Davis does it all by himself for yet another score. Showing great balance and quickness, Davis goes 55 yards for a touchdown as Kentucky now owns a commanding 28-3 lead with 13:47 left at Kroger Field.

Davis now has 72 yards rushing on seven carries and 97 yards receiving on three catches.

End of third quarter: Kentucky 21, Akron 3

Cats have outgained the Zips 308-129 through three periods.

Stats box through three quarters

Devin Leary and Ray Davis combine for spectacular TD

With Zips draped all over him, UK’s Devin Leary somehow got off a pass to running back Ray Davis, who reversed field and took it all the way to the house — his tumble into the end zone was whistled for a 15-yard penalty by the no-fun-allowed officials — and Kentucky extends it lead to 21-3 with 1:38 left in the third quarter.

Leary is 15 of 22 passing for 297 yards and three touchdowns with one interception

Akron gets on the scoreboard

After Akron cornerback Tyson Durant intercepted a Devin Leary pass, the Zips marched 27 yards in nine plays with Noah Perez booting a 36-yard field goal to cut the Cats’ lead to 14-3 with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

Before Leary was picked off, Kentucky thought it had a touchdown on a 64-yard strike from the quarterback to freshman Anthony Brown-Stephens. Instead, the play was called back by a holding penalty on center Jager Burton, who has had a rough night. Burton made a couple of errant shotgun snaps in the first half.

Kentucky catches a break to start second half

Rolling the dice on fourth-and-2 from its own 48-yard line, Akron coach Joe Moorhead pulls off a great play call with quarterback DJ Irons hitting tight end Jake Newell for a 25-yard gain. One problem. The Zips were called for illegal man downfield. That forced Moorhead to punt. Kentucky takes over at its own 22 with 11:24 left in the third quarter.

Halftime: Kentucky 14, Akron 0

After struggling through slow starts the first two weeks, UK quarterback Devin Leary reversed the trend Saturday. The transfer from North Carolina State completed 12 of 16 passes for 208 yards and two touchdown in the first half.

UK tight end Jordan Dingle caught four passes for 89 yards. UK wide out Tayvion Robinson caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Kentucky outgained the Zips 213-77.

Despite the two-touchdown lead, the Cats made just enough mistakes to no doubt get under Mark Stoops’ skins. Two bad shotgun snaps. Kentucky committed three penalties for 20 yards, including a delay of game that took the Cats out of field goal range in the first quarter.

Halftime stats

Kentucky extends lead to 14-0 right before half

After Akron’s missed field goal, UK went 70 yards in 10 plays to take a two-touchdown lead with eight seconds left before halftime. Devin Leary completed passes of 25 yards (to Jordan Dingle), 28 yards (to Tayvion Robinson) and 22 yards (to Robinson) on the drive.

The 22-yarder came on a third-and-a-goal — a snap over Leary’s head lost 21 yards two plays earlier — in which Robinson made a nice catch in the end zone.

Akron mounts a drive, but misses a kick

Kentucky tight end Jordan Dingle made a beautiful catch on a Leary throw for a 59-yard gain. One problem. After the catch, Dingle fumbled the ball into the end zone. Akron recovered for a touchback with 14:04 left in the second quarter.

Apparently inspired by the turnover, the Zips marched o the UK 22-yard line where the drive stalled. A Trevin Wallace sack of Akron quarterback DJ Irons forced Akron’s Noah Perez to attempt a 47-yard field goal. The kick came up short. UK maintains 7-0 lead with 5:39 left in the first half.

End of first quarter: Kentucky 7, Akron 0

The quarter ends with UK at its own 42-yard line after picking up a first down. The Cats outgained the Zips 95-23 in the first period. Devin Leary was 6-for-8 passing for 72 yards and a score. Akron’s three possessions in the first quarter went punt-fumble-punt.

First quarter stats

Kentucky makes another operation error

An error that has plagued UK in its first two games raises its ugly head again. After recovering a muffed punt, the Cats started their third possession at the Zips’ 36-yard line. The offense went nowhere. In came Alex Raynor for a 53-yard field goal attempt. Ah, but Kentucky was called for a delay of game penalty. That would have moved the attempt back to 58 yards. Instead, Mark Stoops elected to punt. Touchback. Akron takes over with 4:52 left in the first quarter.

Kentucky scores on opening drive for 7-0 lead

UK won the toss and elected to receive. First play after a touchback, quarterback Devin Leary hit running back Ray Davis with a perfect screen pass that ended up as a 39-yard gain. Leary made a key 8-yard scramble on a third-and-6 to the Akron 24-yard line. Three plays later, Leary hit tight end Josh Kattus for a 6-yard score. It was Kattus’ first collegiate touchdown. Kentucky leads Akron 7-0 with 10:34 to play in the first quarter. The drive covered 75 yards in seven plays and gets the offense off to the fast start the Wildcats had been seeking.

Pregame links

Kentucky football roster

Akron football roster

Kentucky-Akron football thoughts and predictions

Five things to know about the Akron Zips

How Kentucky and Akron match up with game prediction

Medical episode reinforced Liam Coen’s decision

UK football flips Corbin twins from Michigan

Akron will bring its ‘Turnover Tire’ to Kroger Field

Akron preview of its game with Kentucky

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An 88-year-old man has worked every Kentucky football home game

Penn State fans may recognize Akron’s OC

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Devin Leary’s (13) calls a play in the huddle during a football game against Eastern Kentucky at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.
Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Devin Leary’s (13) calls a play in the huddle during a football game against Eastern Kentucky at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.

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