BOZICH | Snell sets records as Kentucky routs Vanderbilt
Kentucky went to Vanderbilt as a slight underdog Saturday but the Wildcats routed Vandy, 44-21, and head to Georgia next week with seven victories.
LOUISVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) — On an afternoon when the Kentucky football team quickly answered every question about overcoming a post-Ole Miss loss hangover, several fresh questions percolated around the Wildcats as they won, 44-21, at Vanderbilt Saturday.
Let’s call the roll:
Are the Wildcats racing toward their first season with eight regular-season wins since 1984?
Sure looks like it now that Kentucky is parked at 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference with games against Georgia and Louisville remaining.
In a season when the Wildcats have won four games by seven points or less, their 23-point victory was the largest this season for Mark Stoops’ improving program. They did it in a game where the Wildcats were 2 1/2-point underdogs.
Is Kentucky running back Benny Snell the best back in the SEC, a guy who has earned consideration on those Heisman Trophy Watch lists?
Snell sure ran like it, crackling to 116 yards and three touchdowns, even though Stoops kept Snell on the sidelines for the fourth quarter. The carries went to Sihiem King, who contributed 69 yards on 15 carries, scoring twice.
The performance bumped Snell’s season numbers to 1,013 yards and 15 touchdowns, making him the first UK player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in back to back seasons.
“It means a lot,” Snell said on the SEC Network after the game. “I’ve put in so much work and it feels like it’s finally coming together. I’m very happy. I have an outstanding O-line and tight end.”
Snell slipped behind Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson (1,035 yards) as the back with the most rushing yardage in the SEC. But the three scores gave Snell 15, tying Johnson for the most rushing touchdowns in the SEC.
There’s more. Credit Snell with 27 career rushing touchdowns, the most by any UK back. More than Sonny Collins. More than Moe Williams. More than Rafael Little.
He also put his name on the list of SEC players who have rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored at least 13 touchdowns in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
How exclusive is that list?
It includes two other names — Herschel Walker and Knowshon Moreno, guys who played at Georgia and in the NFL.
Finally, here is the question observers will be asking this week:
Are the Wildcats positioned to take advantage of a Georgia team that figures to be sagging after the Bulldogs spit up their Number 1 ranking while getting blasted at Auburn, 40-17, Saturday?
"Kentucky's not going to feel sorry for us," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after his team lost for the first time this season.
I wouldn’t predict an upset (although I did predict Kentucky would go 8-4 this season). But Kentucky only lost to Georgia by three last season. Mississippi State is the only team that has overwhelmed Kentucky this season. The game is perfectly positioned between a pair of rivalry games for the Bulldogs — Auburn Saturday and then Georgia Tech one week after the Kentucky game.
The Georgia-Kentucky game can be debated all week. What cannot be debated is how productive Snell has been the last three Saturdays, rolling for nine touchdowns, three each against Tennessee, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
Snell had 106 yards by halftime and added a 20-yard reception on a screen pass on the Wildcats’ first play of the second half. Although Snell scored his third touchdown late in the third quarter, Snell ran the ball four times in the second half.
After Snell’s third touchdowns which put the Wildcats ahead, 41-14, with less than four minutes to play in the third quarter, Stoops could concentrate on keeping his team ready for the trip to Athens. Snell rested.
“I feel (Snell was fueled by) a lot of the hate, a lot of the doubt we get,” Snell said. “We came in here the underdogs. They had us predicted to lose and all that. It’s things like that. It just makes me get mad and run harder. I do my thing.”
The Wildcats had several other players who earned recognition. Austin MacGinnis kicked three field goals, from 42, 40 and 39 yards.
Quarterback Stephen Johnson completed 13 of 17 passes without an interception.
The Kentucky defense contributed five sacks and four interceptions — one by Mike Edwards, Denzil Ware, Derrick Baity and Jordan Griffin.
“The defense stepped up a lot,” Snell said. “We were having trouble. The offense put some things together.”
Kentucky will need all those guys — and more — to win next Saturday in Athens.
Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.