By STEVE McCLAIN Associated Press
LEXINGTON, Ky (AP) — Devin Leary’s arm and Ray Davis’ speed were dual threats for Kentucky in a 35-3 rout of Akron, but Saturday night showed the Wildcats still have lots to clean up.
Leary threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns, including one to Davis who added a 55-yard touchdown run, before leaving midway through the fourth quarter after taking a hard hit to the chest. He connected on scoring passes of 6 yards to Josh Kattus and 22 yards to Tayvion Robinson in the first half, and an improbable 58 yard touchdown pass to Davis while escaping two defenders in the third quarter.
Kentucky (3-0) got off to a quick start, taking the opening drive seven plays and 75 yards, 63 of those through the air ending on Kattus’ scoring catch. It was the first touchdown the Wildcats had scored on their opening drive this year.
Still, bad snaps and untimely penalties plagued the Kentucky offense and the Zips (1-2) had three takeaways. The Wildcat defense never allowed the Akron offense to take advantage of those turnovers, only allowing a 36-yard Noah Perez field goal with 5:33 left in the third quarter.
“Appreciate the way the defense played all night,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “There’s a lot of frustration offensively. (It’s a) broken record, but you can’t have both, (bad) snaps, holds. You can’t fumble going in the end zone. You have a chance to easily put up, 40 to 49 (points).”
Fortunately for the offense, it overcame those mistakes with explosive plays. After a bad snap backed Kentucky up to the Akron 28, Leary completed two passes to Robinson, the last one the 22-yard touchdown just before the half for a 14-0 lead.
Davis provided the spark in the second half. Leary somehow eluded two Akron defenders, then found Davis in the right flat. He then dashed back across the field and raced down the sideline 58 yards to make it 21-3 with 1:38 left in the third quarter.
“Devin has good pocket presence, he’s a tough guy to bring down. I think there were three guys draped on him and he was able to check down and the guy zig-zagged all the way across the field and we didn’t tackle him,” Akron head coach Joe Moorehead said.
On Kentucky’s third play in the fourth quarter, Davis took the handoff 55 yards and a 28-3 lead. Demie Sumo-Karngbaye added a 4-yard TD run late in the fourth.
SIGH OF RELIEF
Stoops said afterward that Leary had the wind knocked out of him on the hard hit and could have returned if needed.
Saturday’s game celebrates the 50th anniversary of first game at Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky defeated Virginia Tech 31-26 on Sept. 15, 1973, to open the Stadium.
Akron: The Zips came into the game averaging just 39 yards rushing per game and finished with 49 yards. The defense had three takeaways but only got the Perez field goal, who also missed from 47 and 38 yards. Akron only got into Kentucky territory four times.
Kentucky: The passing game was on target, but could only muster 135 yards rushing, 55 of those on Davis’ scoring run. The offense could not take advantage when Akron’s Bobby Golden muffed a punt giving the Wildcats the ball at the Zips 36, fumbled into the Akron endzone and had a 64-yard scoring pass called back for holding.
“Can’t lose 40 some yards on offense and stall drives,” said offensive coordinator Liam Coen, who called plays from the coaches box after being hospitalized Sunday with a medical emergency.
“We actually overcame one. But we just can’t have those things … At the end of the day, this is a results-based industry and how we end up doing things is how we do everything and we can’t let it continue. So, disappointed with some of that.”
Akron: The Zips travel to Big 10 member Indiana next Saturday.
Kentucky: The Wildcats open Southeastern Conference play at Vanderbilt next Saturday.