By LARRY VAUGHT
Central Michigan has poked the bear.
It seems like the last thing an underdog team would want to do is provide extra motivation for the opponent’s star player. Yet that is exactly what Central Michigan running back Jonathan Ward did Tuesday when asked about Kentucky star running back Benny Snell.
“I don’t know him,” Ward told Evan Petzhold of the Central Michigan student newspaper. “I don’t think there’s anything too special.”
As if that wasn’t enough to rile up the Cats, check out what he also had to say about the Kentucky defense.
“They are a pretty aggressive defense and all fly to the ball. I’m not seeing anything really special. We just have to come out and play to the best of our abilities,” Ward said.
Snell has rushed for 2,424 yards and 32 touchdowns the last two season. He had seven 100-yard rushing games last season, including 211 yards and two touchdowns against Louisville and 180 yards and three touchdowns against Tennessee.
“They have a running back who is as good as anybody we’ve faced,” Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego said. “It’ll be a good way to test and measure ourselves.”
Ward ran for 1,024 yards and 10 scores on 178 carries last season when Central Michigan went to its fourth straight bowl game.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops called Ward a “big-time player” Monday at his press conference.
“He’s dynamic. He’ll play football for a long time. He’s got great vision, great patience, he’s strong. He’s explosive. He’s a very good football player,” Stoops said.
What did Snell think of Ward’s lack of respect for him?
“Say what?” Snell said when first asked about his reaction to Ward’s comment.
He listened to the question again, then fired back a little more.
“I am a back to back 1,000-yard rusher in the SEC. My play speaks for itself,” Snell said.
But Central Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Colby also had a shot for UK’s offensive line, which has a coach (John Schlarman) battling cancer and also just lost its starting left tackle (Landon Young) to a knee injury.
“I like our chances with our defensive line against their offensive line. We have to finish tackles,” Colby said.
Give both Ward and Colby credit for their honesty and for having the courage to avoid standard BS, opening game quotes. However, I think Ward and Colby both might have a bit more respect for Snell and UK’s offense when Saturday’s game ends.