BOZICH | Kentucky forgets Snell -- and unbeaten season
By Rick Bozich
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Benny Snell got the national star running back treatment from Yahoo Sports last week. The Tampa Bay Times noticed him, too.
Snell also started showing up in the early national Heisman Trophy polls. He’s a big deal in college football this season. He's earned it by leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing and touchdowns.
Snell is the best running back to play for the University of Kentucky since … Moe Williams … Mark Higgs … Sonny Collins. You decide.
When you decide, share the news with Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. The Wildcats forgot they had one of the most dependable and durable backs in America — and paid for it Saturday night in a 20-14 overtime loss to Texas A&M at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. There were 99,829 witnesses.
Snell averaged 23 carries and nearly 128 yards per game as the Wildcats streaked to a 5-0 record and the No. 13 ranking in the AP college football poll to start this season.
You know how many times Snell touched the ball in overtime against the Aggies?
Not at all.
Quade Green had as many carries as Snell.
"I wish we could have finished it off and gotten that victory, but I am proud of our team," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.
That was after a first half when Snell ran six times and a second half when Snell had seven carries. Yes, the Wildcats were having a difficult time blocking a formidable Texas A&M defensive front. Until overtime, Kentucky did not have any offensive snaps inside A&M territory. But ignoring Snell was not more effective than using the proven dynamo.
Somehow, primarily because UK defensive back Darius West rolled 40 yards with a fumble for a touchdown with 4:17 to play, the Wildcats pushed the game into overtime on a night when their offense generated merely 178 yards,
You get to overtime. You reset. You figure it out. You at least give Snell a shot. You've got a wonderful season going. Keep it going by going to your stud.
Not this time.
After calling ‘tails,’ and losing the overtime coin flip, the Wildcats had the first overtime possession. Kentucky called a pass play from quarterback Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden.
Understandable. Bowden is fast and elusive. He scored Kentucky’s only touchdown on a 54-yard pass late in the first quarter. Bowden gained four yards. Not a problem.
Second and six. Sounds like a reasonable time for Snell. Wilson ran for four yards. Still not a problem.
Third and two. Gotta be Snell. Gotta be.
And Snell was lined up at quarterback, primed to take a direct snap in the Wildcat formation — until Kentucky called timeout.
The brain trust used the time on the sidelines to cook up a play that did not include the best running back in the Southeastern Conference.
It was some kind of hocus-pocus pass play that probably looked great when it was drawn up on a napkin somewhere but Wilson struggled to throw the ball against A&M all night. The Aggies did not fear his arm.
Wilson did the one thing he should have never done. He scrambled and took an eight-yard loss.
That forced Miles Butler to kick a 43-yard field goal, that hit the front of the crossbar and fell harmlessly to the ground.
You knew what was going to happen next. A&M ran four plays. Three were handoffs to Trayveon Williams, the second-best back in the SEC. On Williams’ third carry, he broke a tackle and blasted 10 yards for a touchdown that ended the game — and Kentucky’s unbeaten season.
"Heck of a football game," said A&M coach Jimbo Fisher. "We just kept playing and going on to the next play. And our defense was outstanding."
Opportunity to move to 6-0 and 4-0 (with two road wins) in the SEC.
Opportunity to climb maybe three spots in the Associated Press Top 25 with No. 5 Louisiana State, No. 7 Oklahoma and No. 8 Auburn all losing Saturday.
Opportunity to showcase Snell in overtime and improve his standing in the Heisman debate.
Opportunity to steal a game even after the Wildcats were outgained by more than 200 yards.
Opportunity to win a game that appeared to get away when the Aggies scored a fluke fourth-quarter touchdown on a 46-yard deflected pass that was caught by A&M tight end Jace Sternberger after quarterback Kellen Mond overthrew receiver Camron Buckley.
On a night when Kentucky was limited to 70 yards rushing (60 by Snell) and Wilson completed 13 of 20 passes for only 108 yards, it became too much for Kentucky to overcome.
The Wildcats have a week to regroup before Vanderbilt visits Kroger Field Oct. 20. Kentucky’s next road test is the following Saturday at Missouri.
Maybe they’ll remember to give the football to the best back in the Southeastern Conference.
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