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Benny Snell: “I feel like we are all legends.”

All-Americans Josh Allen and Benny Snell celebrate Kentucky’s Citrus Bowl win. (Vicky Graff Photo)

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.”

10 comments

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  1. You are all legends Mr. Bennie and will remain in our hearts forever. The win gave us a very good feeling but it was a little better at 27-7. I like the headline “Cats blowout PSU” better than “Cats hold off PSU”. I thought for a few minutes that Stoops/Gran were preparing us for the “Cats snatch D from the jaws of V” The players played great for the most part in spite of still being stuck with Gran for OC. The man is just a disaster. I was surprised that we gave up all those running yards up the middle and that we couldn’t cover passes better for most of the game. I think Gran tried 1 creative play and it blew up. Not sure what was wrong with TW but maybe the quarterback job a little more open next year than was two weeks ago. Hopefully, this will give us a nice boost in late recruiting and thanks Cats for big W and great year!!

  2. It wound up being a nail biter, but it turned into a great win for the CATS. I was very concerned at the end. Franklin got outcoached in this one IMO. He tried to be to cute at times and miscalculated on Snell and the UK offense on UK’s last possession with a little over 4 min. to go. I am sure glad he had PS kick that field goal instead of going for the TD.

    I am very proud of the 2018 edition of Kentucky football. I give Mark Stoops a ton of credit. He put this team together and deserves a pat on the back for sure. Ten wins is big boy football.

    I still say the 77 team was better. That said, this 2018 team had a lot of heart all year long. Snell breaking SC’s rushing record was something to witness. UK will miss his services in 2019. ON, ON, UK!

  3. Which team is better, 1977, 2018, or 1950? I saw 1977 play every home game, and recall how that team got stronger from the start through the end of the season. I did not see the great Bear Bryant team that finished 11-1 and beat Oklahoma in their bowl game. I have generally conceded that the 1977 team as great as it was, did not measure up to the 1950 group.

    This season, I had a couple of markers that led me to conclude this team was not better than the 1977 group. However, this evening, after the game, I heard a gentleman call into the post game show, explaining that he was 83 years old, and followed that great team as a young fan. He obviously had regarded that team as UK’s greatest for all these many years.

    Until today. He declared during his call that this team is the greatest UK team ever, in his opinion, and in his mind.

    Who am I to argue with him.

    No doubt this has been a great season, and this group has achieved great things.

    I believe I will defer to the fan who is clearly my senior on which of these three UK great teams is the greatest of all.

  4. I will say that the 77 team won their 10 games during the regular season, and had they gone bowling likely would have won 11 games that year, but we will never know. They finished ranked as high as No. 6 or 7 nationally as I recall. I will not argue with a long time 83 year old fan however.

  5. What a great win for the school, the team and for Stoops! There were some great individual performances but football is a team sport and individuals can not carry a team to a big win like this. The star of the game IMO is Stoops. He has built a team at UK with depth and talent like few other UK teams ever. He deserves a lions share of the credit for this win. His recruiting and player development has been outstanding IMO.

    Too many people didn’t give him credit for what he had already done at UK before this season. And too many had dire predictions for the number of wins this team would have. I remember some predicting four wins. I have to be honest, that set me off. Stoops clearly had built a complete team from the ground up and he deserved our loyalty for it. Football doesn’t happen by a script. It is a matter of persisting and achieving. I certainly didn’t see 10 wins coming before this season started but no way I would have only predicted a 4 win season. Stoops had already shown he was doing things right at UK and IMO we all should have respected that instead of putting him down as some did.

    This was a night for the ages in UK football. The sense of accomplishment may not be equaled for a very long time even if the team manages to do even better. They likely won’t do better than expectations like this team has done. I remember the 1977 team well. They were expected to do well. This team had a lot of detractors all season as evidenced by the number of times they were the underdog in games (some of which irked me considering UK had beaten certain teams several times in a row).

    I was really pleased just to see UK playing on this level on New Year’s Day. Then to win against a quality team like Penn. St. was just great for the fans and of course the player and the coach. The AD deserves credit for sticking with Stoops and letting him build a team also.

    Great win Wildcats!

  6. Best team in my lifetime as a fan. And I saw the 77 team play twice.

  7. NO, the 1977 team was FAR BETTER than this team. That 10-1 team dominated the SEC going undefeated, plus shutting out a Georgia team and I believe a Miss St. team. They did not play Alabama that year but Vince Dooley said he thought KY was the better team. Of course the 77 team was on probation and could not play in a bowl game, but they finished No. 6 in the AP poll.
    I am glad this team won 10 games but they squeaked out a couple of wins, i.e. Missouri and Penn State. They lost 3 SEC games including Tennessee. Seriously, there is no comparison between this team and the 1977 team.

  8. Since there seems to be a debate on the question of greatest UK team of all time is a major testament to what this team achieved.

    Consider the strength of opponents that comprise those 10 wins, and how many of them ended this season with winning records. I have no idea how that type of comparison would go with the 1950 list of opponents.

    If this team had gotten out of Knoxville with a win, the argument for 2018 as the greatest ever would get a major boost. That loss still stings, but I would not trade that embarrassing loss for the signature win that this team got at Florida.

    In my lifetime, 1977 was the standard against which I compared all other UK teams I have had the pleasure (and the pain) to watch play, but I never ever considered 1977 supplanting 1950 as the greatest UK team ever. In addition, the 1977 team’s record did not include a bowl win for a very bad reason, and that reason put a major blemish on that team, which I think is a bigger blemish than this year’s Tennessee loss. In addition, in the SEC, only 2 UK opponents ended the season with winning records, and the 1977 team’s only loss occurred at Baylor, which also ended with a losing record. On the other side, the 1977 win at Penn State was that Penn State team’s only loss of the year, and had PSU beaten UK that day, the odds are good that PSU would have ended as the national champion.

    I am leaning toward 2018 > 1977, and I have no basis to compare 1950 to 2018. For that I tend to defer to the 83 year old fan who can make that comparison better than any one I know.

  9. It don’t matter really. He only has 7 years on me, I’m 76. My eyes never missed a game this year. and I saw the 77 team beat Florida, and never missed a game they played either. I know what my eyes saw, and what each team accomplished in their respective years. Everybody can make up their own minds, but it is hard to do if you did not follow Cats football in the 77 era, and watch that team run through their SEC schedule like a “steamroller.” They were a bunch of head hunters, none more so than Art Still. Derrick Ramsey very seldom had to throw the football because opposing teams couldn’t stop the UK running attack which he lead. When they tackled him he still, in most cases, gained 5 or six yards just on his length and strength.

  10. The 2018 team did not win their division in the SEC much less the conference title. The 1977 team was 10-1, 6-0 in SEC play tieing Alabama for the SEC title. The 1977 team dominated everyone except Baylor, a loss at Baylor, and TN a come from behind win in Lexington. The other 9 teams got killed!

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