AUBURN — Ryan Davis didn’t expect to go down. He knows he can make defenders miss. He’s been doing that for years, from his days as a kid in St. Petersburg, Fla., to his time at Lakewood High on through his four years on the Plains.
But he expected something. At the very least a bigger collision. A better attempt at trying to wrap him up. Anything to slow him down.
Nothing ever came. Davis was all alone when he caught a short cross from quarterback Jarrett Stidham just inside his own 45-yard line. The senior wide receiver ran through nothing but wide-open real estate until he reached the other 40, where it was him and one blocker versus three Texas A&M defenders. He won that with relative ease, spinning off an attempted tackle from defensive back Charles Oliver and breaking free of the Aggie horde.
No one touched him again until he was pushed out of bounds at the 11-yard line — a gain of 47 yards from where the play started.
“I just did a good job of just using my instincts and I had great downfield blocking on the way,” Davis said. “I didn’t do it all by myself but, I did do some things. I’m glad I was able to get a big run. I was trying to score, honestly.”
Davis didn’t wind up reaching the end zone, but his scamper through the Texas A&M defense set up the play that did: Stidham hit true freshman Seth Williams with an 11-yard strike in the left corner of the end zone on the next play, lifting the Tigers to a come-from-behind, 28-24 win over Texas A&M.
That’s been a familiar sight these last two seasons. Davis has accounted for only seven touchdowns — five receiving, two passing — but he has played a part in so many more of the offense’s 85 trips across the goal line during that span.
Davis caught a school-record 84 passes last season, shattering the previous mark of 60 set by Darvin Adams in 2009. Through nine games this season, he leads all Auburn wide receivers with 43 receptions.
That gives him 152 receptions in his four-year career at Auburn. Davis needs just two catches Saturday at Georgia to become the program’s all-time leader, passing the mark of 153 set by Courtney Taylor from 2003-06. He needs 11 for him and Stidham to become the most productive quarterback-wide receiver tandem in program history, passing Pat Sullivan to Terry Beasley (140).
At this point, it would be a surprise if Davis didn’t add both records to his already impressive haul — he’s averaging more than five catches per game since the start of last season and has caught multiple passes in 23 consecutive contests.
“For me able to do that and kind of solidify myself in the top rankings as probably one of the best receivers to come through, it definitely feels great,” Davis told the Montgomery Advertiser last week. “I was always a guy that didn’t keep up with any kind of stats, but for me to be in the record books is definitely a big deal.”
Cementing his name in the record books the way he’s about to is not something Davis ever even thought about doing when he first arrived at Auburn. “You don’t know what you’re going to do when you get here,” he said, and that might be doubly true for him — outside of 7-on-7, Davis had never played wide receiver until his freshman year of college.
From his youth football days all the way through his standout career at Lakewood, Davis was a quarterback. A good one, too — the first record book he secured his place in was that of Pinellas County, Fla., where he still holds the career passing mark with 6,760 yards.
That arm has been put on display twice during his Auburn career. Last season, he hit Darius Slayton for a 62-yard touchdown in a win at Arkansas. This past Saturday, he hit Sal Cannella for a 20-yard score.
“I may throw another one,” Davis said. “You never know.”