Kentucky has score to settle at Vanderbilt

Field Level Media

September 19, 2023 at 9:27 pm.

Unbeaten Kentucky seeks revenge for last season’s upset loss to Vanderbilt when both teams open SEC action on Saturday in Nashville, Tenn.

The Wildcats (3-0) have beaten Ball State, Eastern Kentucky and Akron by a combined 107-34 margin. They’re led by a pair of prominent transfers: Devin Leary (855 passing yards, eight touchdowns, three interceptions), who has connected for more than 100 yards with five different players, and running back Ray Davis (379 yards from scrimmage).

However, Kentucky left plenty on the table in last Saturday’s 35-3 win over the Zips. The Wildcats were plagued by a pair of bad snaps and a hold that wiped out a 64-yard touchdown pass.

“(The players) don’t need to be frustrated,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said on Monday. “They need to be critical of themselves and handle things like a pro.”

Kentucky should know it can’t take the Commodores (2-2) lightly. Vanderbilt, a 14-point underdog this year, was an 18-point dog last season when it upset Kentucky, 24-21, snapping a 26-game SEC losing streak on Nov. 12.

A big reason for that was Davis — at Vandy for the 2021 and 2022 seasons — who ran 26 times for 129 yards and a score that day.

Vanderbilt could use Davis this season. The Commodores netted just 83 yards on 38 rushing attempts in a 40-37 loss last Saturday at UNLV.

Vanderbilt turned the ball over four times against the Rebels, including a fumble by quarterback AJ Swann that was returned for a touchdown as the Commodores blew a 17-0 lead.

“Until we learn to protect the football, we’re leaving it to chance,” Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea said on Tuesday.

The defense has been worse, with Vanderbilt allowing an average of 29.2 points and 389 yards per game while struggling against both the run and the pass.

Hopes for another upset hinge on Swann and receivers Will Sheppard, Jayden McGowan and London Humphreys, who have combined for 875 of Vandy’s 1,155 receiving yards and nine of its 12 touchdowns.