Newcomer Ray Davis had his 10th career 100-yard rushing game and scored twice, Alex Raynor kicked three field goals and host Kentucky opened the season Saturday with a 44-14 win over Ball State at Lexington, Ky.
A 1,042-yard rusher last season for Vanderbilt, Davis carried 14 times for 112 yards for Kentucky (1-0).
In his first start for the Wildcats, quarterback Devin Leary - a transfer from North Carolina State — went 18 of 31 for 241 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Defensive back Jalen Geiger scored on a 69-yard fumble return.
Playing on his fourth team, Ball State transfer quarterback Layne Hatcher completed six of his eight passes for 36 yards and rushed for a touchdown in one half of play for Ball State (0-1).
In his collegiate debut, true freshman Kadin Semonza relieved Hatcher and went 15 of 21 for 165 yards with a touchdown.
After Kentucky missed an SEC-high eight field goals in 2022, Raynor connected from 41 yards less than two minutes in for the season's first points.
Ball State was a 25-point underdog at kickoff, but the Mid-American Conference school stunned the blue-clad crowd on its second series behind Hatcher, grabbing a 7-3 edge from the SEC team late in the first quarter.
Taking 7:05 off the clock, the Cardinals moved effectively on a 13-play, 73-yard drive that Hatcher ended with a sneak from 2 yards.
Following Davis' short TD run, Kentucky defensive back Alex Afari Jr. had a big hit on a reception. Geiger scooped up the fumble on a clean bounce and returned it for a 17-7 advantage with 6:58 remaining in the half.
A second UK scoop-and-score - by Jordan Lovett - was blown dead, wiping out a TD, though the Wildcats were awarded the possession after the play was overturned.
Raynor notched a pair of 46-yard field goals inside the final 72 seconds for a 23-7 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, Leary rolled right and hit Dane Key on a drag route for a 5-yard TD. Semonza answered for Ball State with his first passing TD, a 5-yarder to Ty Robinson.
Barion Brown brought the ensuing kickoff back 99 yards for a TD, and Davis scored from 30 yards out with six seconds left.
—Field Level Media