Kentucky Named Cheez-It National Team of the Week
The University of Kentucky football team has been named the Cheez-It National Team of the Week after defeating No. 9 Louisville for the fifth consecutive meeting and charting the highest win over an Associated Press-ranked team in the Mark Stoops era. The honor was selected by the All-America Committee of the Football Writers Association of America.
This is the third time the Wildcats (7-5) have earned the honor from the FWAA and the first since Sept. 10, 2018, when Kentucky upset Florida in the Swamp.
Running back Ray Davis of San Francisco carried the ball 14 times for 76 yards, including the game-winning 37-yard touchdown jaunt with 1:31 remaining in the game. He also caught four passes for 51 yards, including two TD catches of 20 yards each. With three touchdowns, he has totaled 20 on the season, which broke the UK single-season record of 19 touchdowns by Benny Snell Jr. in 2017. He also broke the UK single-season record for points scored with 120. The previous was 116 points by Snell in 2017 (19 TDs, one two-point conversion).
Quarterback Devin Leary, a native of Sicklerville, New Jersey, completed 12 of 22 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns. He has thrown for 23 touchdowns this season, second in the SEC in that category. He now has 9,247 passing yards and 84 passing touchdowns in his career.
Wide receiver/kick returner Barion Brown, of Nashville, put his blazing speed on display and sparked the Wildcats’ comeback win with his 100-yard kickoff return for a score in the third quarter. He fielded the kick several yards deep in the end zone, veered right after a few steps, hit a crease set up by his blockers and raced untouched to the end zone.
Brown tied several school records with his score and turned in a remarkable overall day with 250 all-purpose yards in the game. The TD return is his second of the season (also 99 yards vs. Ball State) and the third of his career (100 vs. Miami-Ohio in 2022). He tied two school records – Craig Yeast for most kickoff return TDs in a career (3) and Derek Abney for most KO return TDs in a season (2). He now also owns the school record for kick return average (min. 30 returns) at 29.55 yards per return on 31 returns.
Defensively, J.J. Weaver, an outside linebacker from Louisville, turned the game on its head with game-changing defensive plays on consecutive possessions. First, he chased down UofL running back Jawhar Jordan from behind late in the third quarter, stripping the football and then recovering his forced fumble, leading to a game-tying field goal. Minutes later, he fell on a fumble caused by teammate D’Eryk Jackson to set up a fourth quarter touchdown by Ray Davis to give the Wildcats their first lead.
Weaver was honored with the Howard Schnellenberger Award as the Governor’s Cup’s Most Valuable Player. He totaled eight tackles, two fumble recoveries, one caused fumble and a quarterback sack that also came in the fourth quarter.
The win marked Kentucky’s 20th straight against regular-season nonconference opponents, the second-longest streak in the country behind Georgia (24). It also extended Coach Mark Stoops’ school records for most wins (73) and most wins vs. ranked opponents (13). This is the fourth straight season that Stoops’ squad has defeated two ranked opponents.
Since 2002, the FWAA has named a National Team of the Week. Coming into the 2023 season, 284 teams have been honored, including 101 different Division I programs. Each honored team will receive a custom Cheez-It “care package” along with a hand-crafted game ball made in America by Dallas-based Big Game USA, the nation’s leading manufacturer of custom footballs.