Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Schaible: Move over basketball, football is a thing in Kentucky now

Photo Credit: Joe Robbins- Getty Images

By: Brian Schaible
Twitter: @SBNationReports

For the first time since 1977, the Kentucky Wildcats won 10 games, despite not winning the SEC East division.

It was not easy.

After jumping out to a 27-7 lead, Penn State fought mightily cutting the lead down to three in the closing minutes of the ballgame.

With the Nittany Lions having all three timeouts, Coach James Franklin made the decision to kick a chip shot field down six with only 4:12 left on the clock. As opposed to the alternative going for a fourth-and-7 from the 14-yard line.

“It was really going to come down to how close we could get it for 4th and short,” Franklin said. “Our defense had been playing well all day long and with three timeouts left, we were either going to have to score in that situation if we went for it or kick a field goal. Obviously, when you don’t stop them, and they run a four-minute offense, then it looks like you should have went for it in the earlier situation.”

Kentucky held on for a 27-24 victory.

“Believe me, we had a great belief in our locker room,” said Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. “We didn’t have to do anything special, just be us. We had so much fun, it ought to be illegal how much fun we had this week.”

While no Wildcat players ran afoul of the law in Orlando, Benny Snell delivered an absolute beatdown of the Nittany Lions defense.

Snell finished with 26 carries for 144 bruising yards and two touchdowns. When the game was on the line, the ball had to be in his hands.

“Finishing games with a physicality and finding a way to win rather than finding a way to lose is all part of changing the culture,” said Stoops. “And if you don’t have a guy like Benny, it’s hard to do. It’s hard when the whole stadium knows he’s about to run the ball and (for him) to grind out a first down or two and ice the game was critical.”

In the victory, Snell also surpassed Sonny Collins to become the all-time leading rusher in program history.

“Man, I was so excited! I don’t even have words for it, I was speechless,” said Snell on his record setting performance. “For the past three years, my offensive line has been phenomenal. The glory goes to them. I’m just blessed and very happy.”

Josh Allen continued his dominance with a blocked second quarter field goal attempt, and played like a man possessed on defense.

“I feel like we are going to go down as the best team ever to come out of Kentucky. That’s how I feel,” said Allen.

It’s on to the NFL Combine and Pro Day before Allen likely hears his name called by Roger Goodell early in the NFL Draft.

So how high can he go? Allen had a thought about that.

“I’ve got something to say. I’m leaving with this. You all record this. If I don’t go number one, I don’t know who is, and I stand true to that.”