LEXINGTON, Ky. — The real shame of Kentucky football’s debacle against Louisville on Saturday, and of the Wildcats whiffing on a prime opportunity to win nine games this season, is that sophomore running back Benny Snell won’t get the national attention he deserves.
But allow this to be a (surely inadequate) consolation prize: our ode to the bruising and brilliant Snell Raiser. Enjoy this guy, Kentucky fans, because he is a rare treat, and you’re lucky enough to get at least one more season to watch him treat tacklers like bowling pins.
After he rumbled 29 times for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Cardinals, Snell’s list of accomplishments is officially absurd.
He ended the regular season leading the SEC in carries (256), rushing yards (1,318) and rushing touchdowns (18). In other words, Snell is the most durable and productive back and the most reliable red-zone option in the conference.
Consider how rare a player like this is in Lexington: Only Artose Pinner (2002), Moe Williams (1995) and Sonny Collins (1973) have ever led the conference in rushing at Kentucky.
Snell already has broken program records for rushing touchdowns in a season and career (31). He already has rushed for 2,409 yards in just two seasons, which puts him on pace to chase that career mark, too.
No Wildcats player has rushed for as many yards in a game against Louisville — Rafael Little’s 151 in 2007 is now a distant second — or in a career. Snell is the fourth player in SEC history to surpass 30 rushing touchdowns before his junior seasons and fifth to surpass 2,400 yards this fast.
No sophomore ever has had a better rushing season at Kentucky and few players anywhere have put together a better five-game hot streak than the one he’s riding right now: 777 yards and 12 touchdowns to close out the regular season.
So this bears repeating: Enjoy this guy, celebrate him, honor him. Snell just might be the best running back to ever play for Kentucky, and he has another season coming.
While fans have every right to want more than consecutive 7-5 seasons — even if that is major progress just four years removed from a second straight 2-10 season — and they should absolutely demand better behavior than UK showed against U of L, Snell remains one hell of a good reason to buy a ticket and show up at the stadium on Saturdays next fall.
He has a realistic chance to finish his junior season as a top-10 rusher in SEC history. With 18 more touchdowns in 2018, he would tie legendary Herschel Walker for second on the conference’s career list.
That kind of star is a rare and precious thing around these parts, and it would be a mistake to let his career pass as quickly as these things tend to without fully appreciating his greatness.