By LARRY VAUGHT
Perhaps it was only fitting that on such historic day for Kentucky football that there had to be more than a few anxious moments.
Kentucky beat Penn State 27-24 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando Tuesday to cap a season that will be remembered for a long, long time for these reasons:
— Kentucky won 10 games for the first time since 1977 — and seven of those wins came against bowl teams.
— Kentucky junior Benny Snell became Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher and set the mark with a 12-yard touchdown run. He finished with 144 yards on 26 carries to increase his three-year total to 3,862 yards and break the mark of 3,835 yards Sonny Collins set in 1975. Snell finished this season with 1,449 yards and 16 touchdowns.
— Josh Allen, the national defensive player of the year, had two more sacks and also blocked a field goal in his final UK game.
— Kentucky now has a chance to end the season ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 1977. The Cats also beat a team — Florida — on the road that won 10 games for the first time since 1977 when, ironically, it won at Penn State, which finished 11-1.
But after getting a 27-7 lead on Snell’s second TD run, Kentucky nearly collapsed as Penn State ripped off 17 unanswered points before — who else — Snell put the game away. He had runs of 3, 4 and 4 to start UK’s final drive when the Cats got the ball with 4 minutes, 12 seconds left.. He followed that with runs of 4 and 6 yards for another first down. He ran three more times for 0, 1 and 3 yards before UK had to punt with just nine seconds left.
“We contained him (Snell) just a little bit most of the game but he made big plays,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “Give Kentucky all the credit in the world.”
Snell said there was no way he was going to let the game get away because he knew what this game meant to the 16 players playing their final game and the program overall.
“We are legends. I feel like we are all legends,” Snell told ABC-TV sideline reporter Laura Rutledge after the win. “We are all special.”
Yes they are.
“We didn’t get no respect (going into the season),” Snell said noting that UK was an underdog in the majority of its games this season, including the Citrus Bowl. “The bond here is deeper than football. We proved so many people wrong.”
He revealed that he told coach Mark Stoops he wanted the ball to break the record before he got the 12-yard touchdown — and Stoops gave it to him.
“I have no words for when I stepped in the end zone. I knew I had three or four years left (to break the record),” Snell said. “I’ve had the best O-line here for three years. I am blessed.”