Snell runs into record books, Cats blitz Vanderbilt 44-21 for seventh win

Benny Snell (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Benny Snell ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown. The Kentucky defense came up with three interceptions — the same number Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur had thrown in the season’s first nine games.

And that was just in the first half at Vanderbilt Saturday.

The Wildcats — coming off that last-second loss to Ole Miss — spotted Vanderbilt a 7-0 lead in Nashville before charging back to win 44-21 and go to 7-3 on the season for the first time in 10 years.

The victory could have earned Kentucky a return trip to Nashville Dec. 29th for the Music City Bowl even though the game will kick off about the same time the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game ends in Rupp Arena. But Kentucky had a lot of fans at Saturday’s game and would bring a lot more back for the bowl game.

The victory also was important for coach Mark Stoops for another reason — it kicked a provision in on his contract that extends his contract by a year. He now is under contract through the 2022 season and will make $5 million in 2022. But remember that UK has finished .500 or better in SEC play just six times in the last 30 years — and this is the second straight year Stoops has done that. Kentucky has also won seven or more games in a season just three times in 1978, something this team could do now with one more more.

This was just one of those games where Kentucky got breaks the football gods usually don’t bestow on UK.

On the first series of the second half, quarterback Stephen Johnson hit Lynn Bowden with a pass that went for 35 yards. Bowden fumbled and the ball rolled toward the goal line. Several Vandy players — and Bowden — had a chance to get the fumble, but UK senior receiver Charles Walker came out of nowhere to get the recovery at the 1.

The next play Snell — who else — literally walked into the end zone for a 27-7 lead thanks to two crushing blocks by tight ends Justin Rigg and C.J. Conrad and became UK’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 27.

Then after UK’s defense forced a three-and-out, Walker muffed a Vandy punt. But he recovered the ball himself with Vandy defenders bearing down on him. Vanderbilt even got called for pass interference in the end zone to give UK the ball at the 2-yard line to set up King’s second TD for a 34-7 lead — midway of the third quarter.

Again, UK football just does not have things like that go its way so often in the same game.

Or how about this. Vanderbilt finally scored again to stop UK’s 34-0 run and Bowden responded with a 93-yard kickoff return to the 6-yard line and Snell scored on the next play to make it 41-14 behind a crushing block again by Conrad. THAT KIND OF STUFF JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN WITH KENTUCKY FOOTBALL.

The star again was Snell. He finished the game with 17 carries for 116 yards and three scores. He now has 1,013 rushing yards this season and became the first UK player to rush for 1,000 yards in two straight seasons. He’s also just the third player in SEC history with 1,000 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns in his freshman and sophomore seasons. The other two — Herschel Walker and Knowshon Moreno.

Snell told the SEC Network that he had special motivation with UK being a 3-point underdog against a team that had not won a SEC game this year.

“Lot of hate, lot of the doubt we get,” Snell said when asked what motivated him. “We came into this game the underdog. They had us predicted to lose. I just get mad.”

Mike Edwards had one of UK’s four interceptions. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Kentucky amassed 427 yards as quarterback Stephen Johnson was 13 of 17 passing for 195 yards and King ran 15 times for 69 yards and two scores. Vanderbilt finished with 368 total yards — including 308 passing — but was never in the game the second half and piled up a lot of meaningless yards.

“Benny has been so solid and our offensive line loves blocking for him. Credit our offensive line and tight ends for blocking their tails off,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said on the UK Radio Network. “We had to fight adversity early and then we fought back. We played pretty solid across the board.

“It was just good football. They were focused all week. We made good plays on the ball (on defense). We had them off balance early.”

Mike Edwards, Denzil Ware, Jordan Griffin and Derrick Baity all had interceptions for UK. Kentucky had 10 players with three or more tackles and none with more than Edwards’ five. Kentucky had five quarterback sacks and six tackles for loss.

“Every game has been so tight and critical, it was nice to get some younger guys in there (in the second half),” Stoops said. “I am just very proud of our team. They responded the right way.”

10 comments

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  1. Excellent win coach ! Candy certainly is no MUD or Alabama but they, trying to become bowl eligible, had a whole lot to play for. This game may set up the HIS game but that’s stuff for next week. We’ll let the expert, if negative, mouth of Lexington handle that one..
    Good win all around guys ! Well played!

  2. Great spell ✔ you’ve got Larry !

  3. Like the way UK kept trying to score once they got a lead, that’s what you do in sports. Would like to have seen the same play calling when the subs went in. I like to see the subs score in any sport, gets them more ready for when it counts. Liked the way the defense seemed more aggressive, but like Persimmon Knob said, this wasn’t Alabama. Good teams should win convincingly when they play teams with losing records.

  4. Now THAT’s wat I am talkin about…where has that been? This was a very solid win all the way around. Pass defense did get a little tighter but still leaving too many guys open over the middle. Defensive line played very well as well. Nice to be able to finishing out the weekend with some good feelings. Congrats Stoops and Team!

  5. On! On! UK. Great win. Kentucky showed what they are capable of. Vandy is a good team, that play hard. UK went in there and got it done. Kentucky has a chance against UGA if they play like that. Maybe they will get some respect now. The way I look at it, but for three or four plays, UK would be 9-1 now. I just want them to play hard and be competitive.

  6. 7-3 wiped a lot of bad taste out of our mouths.

  7. It feels just as good today as it did last night. We will be “what if” for years on the other 2 that got away. I was very proud of the total offensive effort last night and the defensive line effort, but there are still too many wide opens in the passing game. We still gave up over 300 yds. We don’t seem to ever get much separation on our passing routes but every opposing team has had no problem shredding us.

    1. I am with you Mike on just being happy at 7-3

      1. I expect UK to win the next 2 games. That said, 7-3 right now, is a whole lot better than 6-4. The Ole Miss loss brought a lot of criticism from BBN. UK did something about that at Vandy.

  8. Excellent win coach ! Vandy certainly is no MSU or Alabama but they, trying to become bowl eligible, had a whole lot to play for. This game may set up the UGA game but that’s stuff for next week. We’ll let the expert, if negative, mouth of Lexington handle that one..
    Good win all around guys ! Well played!

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