Before the day ends, Benny Snell could be Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher.
Snell needs 207 yards to surpass Sonny Collins’ 43-year old record. It’s within reach, but it would take an exceptional performance to rewrite the record books today. Ahead of the rivalry game against Louisville, Snell’s focus isn’t on the record.
“I’m just gonna let it happen,” Snell said. “When I’m on the field, Benny is being Benny. Let 2-6 be 2-6. I don’t want to try to force it.”
The record that’s hung over his bed all year will be in the back of his mind against Louisville. Reaching the milestone in the Battle for the Governor’s Cup will not be easy, but there is a path to 207.
Exhibit A: 2017
Benny Snell can reach 207 rushing yards against Louisville because that’s exactly what he did to the Cardinals’ defense last year. Snell carried the ball 29 times for a career-high 211 yards and 2 touchdowns at Kroger Field in 2017. UofL’s rush defense ranked 63rd last year. This year it’s much, much worse.
Exhibit B: UofL’s Rush Defense
Teams are blowing out Louisville by running the ball up the middle and they’ve made it look easy. The Cards give up 271.7 rushing yards per game. They’re ranked 125th out of 130 teams and allow opponents to gain 5.9 yards per carry, a half-yard less than what Snell averaged per carry against Mississippi State’s ninth-ranked rush defense.
A small sample of UofL’s rush defense:
CJ Avery has been a bright spot on the defense for me all year, but, on this play he reads it all right and just bounces off Etienne in the hole. pic.twitter.com/H4xDMcCLau
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) November 5, 2018
Exhibit C: Benny wouldn’t be the First
Benny Snell would be the second running back to rack up 200 yards against Louisville in 2018. Wake Forest’s Matt Colburn rushed for 243 and 3 touchdowns on only 20 carries (that’s 12.1 yards per carry). Spurned by Petrino in the recruiting process, Colburn had plenty of motivation to run wild. Snell and the Cats share similar motives tonight.
Colburn is the only individual to surpass 200 yards against Louisville, but Boston College, Clemson and Georgia Tech all had multiple 100-yard rushers.
Exhibit D: Explosive Opportunities
Snell has 1,000 yards in his third straight season, but they have not come easy. The big back has been forced to rely on his power, while struggling to rack up big numbers on explosive runs. He only has three carries over 30 yards this year. His longest run since September was a 22-yarder against Vanderbilt. This week he’ll go up against a defense that’s given up 18 rushes of 30 yards or more. Weak at the point of attack, if Benny gets to the second level for a few big early runs, the record will be within reach.
Exhibit E: Gran will Feed Benny
If all goes according to plan, Kentucky will be playing with a lead for most of the game. After watching three years of the Stoops-Gran offense, we all know they’ll lean on Benny to ground the game away.
Gran said this week getting Benny the ball isn’t the primary focus. “Whatever we got to do to win, and I know Benny feels the exact same way.” However, if it’s within reach, Gran will make sure Benny gets the ball.
“It would be a great record,” UK’s offensive coordinator said. “If it got close and somebody told me ‘Benny’s 22 yards away,’ yeah. We’re going to keep him in there and try to get it.”
It would be an incredible accomplishment to cap off a fun 2018 season. If Snell doesn’t reach that mark today, it’s no big deal.
“To be honest, I’m not thinking about it like that because I know I still have another game,” Snell said.