Devin Leary Preparing for Familiar Opponent in Gator Bowl

Devin Leary Preparing for Familiar Opponent in Gator Bowl

by Tim Letcher

Devin Leary has never played in a bowl game during his college football career. He will finally get that chance on Dec. 29 when Kentucky faces an opponent that is very familiar to the UK quarterback.

Kentucky faces Clemson in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, the eighth consecutive bowl appearance for the Cats. Leary spent his first four seasons at North Carolina State, where he played against the Tigers on three occasions. For Leary, it will be another chance to face an old rival.

“It’s kind of ironic to see them again,” Leary said. “They’re a great team. We know it’s going to be a good challenge. It’s up to us to prepare during this time and make sure that we’re ready to take them on.”

Leary battled Clemson three times during his four years at N.C. State. In 2019, Leary connected on 14 of 29 through the air for 166 yards and rushed for 30 yards as his Wolfpack lost at Clemson 55-10.

After not playing Clemson in the 2020 season, Leary was able to engineer an upset of the ninth-ranked Tigers in 2021. Playing at home in Raleigh, Leary was 32 of 44 passing for 238 yards and a career-high four touchdowns as the Wolfpack beat the Tigers 27-21 in double overtime. Leary’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Devin Carter in the second overtime proved to be the winner.

Then in 2022, Leary and N.C. State visited fifth-ranked Clemson in Death Valley. Leary was 28 of 47 for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 30-20 loss.

Leary knows that No. 22 Clemson will provide a stiff test for the Cats in the Gator Bowl.

“It’s going to be a challenge, like it always is,” Leary said. “They’re a well-coached team. They have a bunch of athletes on all three phases of the ball. We know they’re going to bring it. We’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game as well.”

Earlier this fall, Leary expressed his excitement about finally being able to play in a bowl game. It’s also one last chance for him to suit up with a Kentucky team that welcomed him with open arms this season.

“Really excited. I really enjoy everyone in the locker room,” Leary said. “Everyone in the entire locker room created bonds that we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives. Being able to go out there and compete with my brothers one last time is all that I could ask for.”

Leary is finally getting his chance to play in a bowl game. Ironically, he will also get one more shot at facing a team he has seen three times already during his college career.

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