Snell, Allen Get Their Storybook Endings
It’s a rare thing for all-time great player to get the kind of storybook endings they deserve.
Well, two all-time Kentucky greats got theirs on New Year’s Day – albeit with a nervous moment or two in the end.
Josh Allen and Benny Snell Jr. waged a spirited battle for Most Valuable Player honors of Kentucky’s 27-24 VRBO Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State, ending two of the best careers in program history in fitting fashion.
Snell ended up winning the race for MVP with some game-clinching heroics to undo a furious late rally by the No. 12 Nittany Lions. He carried eight times for 25 yards on Kentucky’s final drive, picking up two crucial first downs to kill all but nine seconds of the final 4:12. That didn’t leave Penn State senior quarterback Trace McSorley enough time to create a storybook ending of his own.
“Our confidence level was very high to run out that clock,” Stoops said. “I thought our offensive coaches did a great job — Coach (John) Schlarman and Coach (Eddie) Gran — and got on the same page and gave Benny an opportunity to get started.”
Somehow, the bruising runs that sealed the game and perfectly represented the way Snell played for all three of his years as a Wildcat rendered the record he set earlier somewhat of a footnote. A 12-yard touchdown sprint that gave UK its largest lead at 27-7 with 1:35 left in the third quarter vaulted Snell past Sonny Collins as the all-time leading rusher in Kentucky football history.
“It was the best feeling ever when I crossed the (goal line),” said Snell, who finished with 144 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. “From my past three years being here, my offensive line has been phenomenal — every single one of those guys. And the glory goes to them. I’m just blessed and very happy.”
Allen had already set all his records coming into the Citrus Bowl, but the national defensive player of the years was the dominant defensive force he has been all season anyway. UK’s career and single-season sacks king added another three to his gaudy totals and even blocked a field goal for good measure.
“That was the first time I felt like all season that we ran that play,” Allen said. “We practiced it all week. Me and (Quinton Bohanna) talked about it the play before. We knew it was going to work. We knew he sat real soft, that he was sitting outside, so if I got skinny enough, I was going to get through and I got pretty skinny in there.”
Snell and Allen did all that as players who didn’t even have to play in this game. In fact, some likely would have counseled them not to.
With Allen a projected top-five pick and Snell playing the most physically demanding position in the sport, the NFL-bound duo could have sat out to prepare for the draft. Instead, they left everything on the field at Camping World Stadium and walked off it having added an unforgettable final chapter to their incredible Kentucky legacies alongside their fellow departing Wildcats.
“This morning, in the hotel pregame speech, I had to be really intentional with myself of not getting emotional because I didn’t want these guys to make fun of me if I cracked and started crying,” Stoops said. “I really mean that, because they mean that much to me and I just greatly appreciate them. We’ve had a lot of fun and we’ve worked extremely hard and come through a lot of things and persevered together and they mean the world to me.”
Those players have a similar feeling about their own farewell.
“I have no better feeling than right now,” Allen said. “I feel great. Great team win. Offense did a heck of a job. Defense did a heck of a job. Special teams did a heck of a job. And I’m just living it right now.”