By LARRY VAUGHT
On the football field, Benny Snell only knows how to play one way — all out.
“Whenever my number is called, I just try to make the most of it,” he said. “I am an emotional physical player. I live and die for football. I am glad to be part of such a good team that is rising right now. I just love it.”
Snell’s stock certainly is on the rise after he ran 17 times for 136 yards and a school-record four touchdowns in Saturday’s 62-42 win over New Mexico State. That was the most rushing yards by a true freshman at UK since Derek Homer against Tennessee in 1997 and he became only the second freshman — Danville’s Don Phelps was the first in 1946 — to score four touchdowns in a game.
For weeks there had been a buzz about what Snell was doing in practice and when senior JoJo Kemp had an ankle injury Saturday, Snell was elevated to Boom Williams’ backup.
“It was really good to get him some reps and get him in the game and you see him keep those legs churning and hitting guys and playing physical and he played much more mature than a true freshman and that was that was really good to see,” coach Mark Stoops said after the game.
Williams still got 18 carries and ran for 181 yards and one touchdown. He had a 63-yard run and his speed made for a nice combo with Snell’s power.
“Snell is a physical guy and it’s really important, as you know, through the course of the past couple years, those short yardage situations are very critical. It’s good to have a guy like that physical presence,” Stoops said.
Snell said not only is Williams a playmaker, but he’s also been like a “big brother” to him. Same for Kemp.
“I’m just learning as much as I can all the time so you know, those are the guys I look up to,” Snell said.
Snell was a special teams player the first two games and said his goal was to make tackles on kickoff team and break kick returns. He knew fans were upset with UK’s 0-2 record but said senior leaders and Stoops kept the team focused going into New Mexico State.
“You could say we had to win to save our season, but there was no panic in this team. We are glad we got the win because we want to change this season around and believe we can do that,” Snell said.
Snell figures to play plenty against South Carolina this week. South Carolina’s defense gave up 519 yards to East Carolina last week but typically has fast, big athletes.
“There is definitely some finesse to my when I am in the open field, but when we need those little yards I am going to get them,” Snell said. “I have the mindset I can break any tackle.”
So is there still more to his game?
“We will have to see. I can’t really say,” he laughed and said.
What about receiving? Can he catch the ball out of the backfield?
“I can do that and there are plays for that. I would like that,” Snell said. “But we’ll just have to wait and see how this all plays out.”