UK Football

Benny turns on the jets, rushes for 192 yards on 38 carries

Benny Snell should have been exhausted.

Kentucky’s true freshman running back had just carried the ball 38 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns, but he wasn’t feeling any pain after a 35-21 victory over Missouri on Saturday.

So how many carries is too many carries?

“I don’t have an answer for that,” Snell smiled. “There is none.”

Perhaps that’s not exactly what fellow running back Boom Williams wants to hear.

“When Benny’s in there going, going, going, I’m waiting for him to get tired and I’m like, it’s my turn to go in,” he laughed.

There were plenty of carries to around. Combined, they had all but three of Kentucky’s 377 rushing yards, the most UK has managed against a Southeastern Conference opponent since 1953.

“It’s fun,” said Williams, who added 19 carries for 182 yards and a touchdown. “It’s fun to see Benny in there doing his thing.”

Both of them did plenty and hit major milestones in the victory.

For Snell, it was getting to his eighth rushing touchdown of the season, besting a previous record set by Randall Cobb. It was the first time he’d heard that stat.

Then there was Williams, who became just the eighth player in school history to eclipse 2,000 yards rushing on his 60-yard scoring run in the first quarter.

Of the seven others, only Sonny Collins and Moe Williams achieved that 2,000-yard feat before their senior seasons. And Williams did it on his 288th career carry, faster than any other Wildcat.

“They had a phenomenal day,” quarterback Stephen Johnson said of the dynamic duo. “Just incredible running backs able to extend plays. They just did a great job together.”

Always a perfectionist, Eddie Gran, their position coach, seemed less impressed, calling it “good day’s work.”

Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp made the trip with the team but had a cast on his left hand from an injury suffered last week.

Coach Mark Stoops said the senior was available if necessary.

“Jojo was willing to do whatever he could and play hurt or with a cast on,” Stoops said. “He was an emergency (option), but just with ball security it was an issue. So he was ready to go, but those two knew they would probably geared up for a big day.”

‘This was their win’

When two running backs both manage to get 175-plus yards against an SEC opponent for the first time in school history, the offensive line had to be doing something right.

It did almost everything right, the head coach said.

“I really noticed them finishing blocks,” Stoops said. “I saw ’em really playing physical and enjoying that. They’re playing extremely hard and they’re playing smart.”

Johnson, who was sacked just once, said that group deserves “a whole lot of love” after the game.

“Everybody knows without them, we wouldn’t be able to run the ball and throw the ball like we did today,” Johnson said. “Coach called them out and said the offense, the offensive line, this was their win for us today. They did a phenomenal job.”

Badet’s encore performance

Senior Jeff Badet followed up a huge game last week against Mississippi State with another big one on Saturday, with three catches for 104 yards, including a 65-yard scoring snag early in the second quarter.

The ball was thrown slightly behind him, but the junior went back and got it for a pretty catch. He said it made up for a catch he didn’t make at Florida.

“It was awesome,” Gran said of Badet’s game. UK threw the post route on third down when co-offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw noticed the coverage.

“Jeff did a great job running on the guy’s toes and ran right past him,” Gran said. “We’re going to keep getting those guys involved. Stephen’s been growing. This offense has been growing.”

▪  Dorian Baker, who missed much of the first half of the season with a hamstring issue, got his first catch of the season, a 31-yarder to open the game. He finished with four catches for 48 yards.

One to grow on

Most players and coaches felt good about the offense’s big day, but it was hard to ignore the one problem that continues to plague that group: turnovers.

A Williams fumble in the red zone and an interception near the goal line were turnovers No. 19 and 20 for the Cats this season, although Missouri wasn’t able to capitalize on either.

“Turnovers are killing us, been keeping us from scoring a whole bunch of points,” Badet said. “We need to eliminate turnovers, finish drives, then we’ll really be a team that’s clicking.”

With at least four more games to play before the postseason, Kentucky now has more turnovers than it accumulated in any of the past four seasons.

“It’s inexcusable and it can’t happen,” Gran said. “It’s inexcusable, got to get it fixed.”

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

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