By LARRY VAUGHT
About 45 minutes after Kentucky had beat Penn State 27-24 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando Tuesday, coach Mark Stoops was at his postgame press conference sitting between running back Benny Snell Jr. and Josh Allen.
Snell became UK’s all-time leading rusher with his performance in the Citrus Bowl and broke the mark held by Sonny Collins since 1975. Josh Allen had three quarterback sacks and a blocked field goal in his final game at UK and finished as the school’s all-time sacks leader.
Both earned All-American honors and helped UK go to three straight bowl games and win 24 games over the last three years, including a 10-3 mark this season that gave UK its first 10-win season since 1977.
So which player will Stoops miss the most next season?
“I’m going to miss them both. And, you know, really, all those guys — this morning, in the hotel pregame speech, I had to be really intentional with myself of not getting emotional because I didn’t want these guys to make fun of me if I cracked and started crying,” Stoops said while letting everyone know how much he would miss all the UK seniors.
“I really mean that, because they mean that much to me and I just greatly appreciate them. We’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve worked extremely hard and come through a lot of things and persevered together and they mean the world to me.”
Penn State coach James Franklin complimented both Allen, a potential top five NFL draft pick, and Snell for playing in the bowl game rather than sitting out to avoid any risk of injury. Snell said he never though of not finishing what he started and Allen came back to UK for his senior season to help improve his draft status.
“This is the reason why guys come back,” Allen said. “If you’re projected to be one of the top players coming back, I advise to come back because you could have a season like I did, become the national defensive player of the year, projected top five pick, win bowl games.
“I have no better feeling than right now. I feel great. Great team win. Offense did a heck of a job. Defense did a heck of a job. Special teams did a heck of a job. And I’m just living it right now.”