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Journal: Jesuit alum Malik Davis injured in Florida loss

By Matt Brannon, Times Correspondent
MONICA HERNDON | Times Florida Gators quarterback Malik Zaire (8) gets sacked during the fourth quarter of the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field, in Jacksonville, Fla. on October 28, 2017. The Georgia Bulldogs won 42-7.

GAINESVILLE — Georgia soared to a 21-point lead over Florida halfway through the first quarter. And as the Gators lost control of the game, they also lost one of their top playmakers.

UF’s leading rusher, Malik Davis (Jesuit High), left the game with a right knee injury in the first quarter of UF’s 42-7 loss to Georgia on Saturday. The injury came on a third-and-4 play when Davis pulled in a 6-yard reception to convert a first down. Davis was tackled by Bulldogs defensive back J.R. Reed, whose helmet hit the freshman running back in the knee. Davis walked off the field but needed the help of trainers to make his way into a medical tent on the UF sideline. Later, he left for the locker room and came back in street clothes. When the game ended, he needed crutches to leave the field and was wearing a long, black brace on his right knee.

After the game, Gators coach Jim McElwain confirmed Davis hurt his knee but didn’t specify the extent of the injury.

Davis has been Florida’s most reliable rusher through the first seven games of the season, averaging about 6.7 yards per carry. Before leaving the game against Georgia, Davis had four carries for 20 yards. It was Davis’ first game where he didn’t rush for at least 90 yards since he ran for 8 yards on one carry in UF’s first game of the year.

Zaire leads lone touchdown drive

As Feleipe Franks struggled against Georgia’s defense, McElwain did something he hasn’t since UF’s season opening loss to Michigan: put graduate transfer Malik Zaire in at quarterback.

With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and Franks having failed to throw for more than 30 yards on 19 attempts, Zaire, the former Notre Dame signal caller, was placed in charge of the offense. On Zaire’s second drive, he completed 3 of 4 throws for 36 yards, and he ran for another 30 yards. On a first and 20, Zaire kept the ball on a read option and gained 27 yards to set the Gators up just outside Georgia’s red zone. Four plays later, Mark Thompson ran in UF’s only touchdown of the game from the 1-yard line with under three minutes to go in the game.

Lemons earns first carries

With Davis injured, Clearwater High’s Adarius Lemons carried the ball for the first time this season. Lemons, a freshman running back, picked up 18 yards on 3 carries on Florida’s fourth-quarter touchdown drive. Lemons also returned three kickoffs against Georgia with an average of 22.7 yards per return.

While Saturday marked Lemons’ first carries as a back, it’s the second game he’s touched the ball. Lemons returned four kickoffs two weeks ago in UF’s 19-17 loss to Texas A&M.

Before Florida’s Sept. 30 matchup with Vanderbilt, Lemons tweeted that the game against the Commodores would be his last, presumably because of a lack of playing time. Running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider later said he talked with Lemons after the game and helped convince him not to give up on playing for Florida.