Benny Snell, Jr., has been a stalwart of the Kentucky offense for the past three years. The star running back rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, and he looks well on his way to breaking that mark again. Snell brought one of the best performances of his already-illustrious career on Saturday night, leading the Kentucky Wildcats over No. 14 Mississippi State.
After struggling in Week 1 against a bad Central Michigan team, many tempered their expectations for a Snell-led Kentucky this year. The Wildcats dispelled any such notions by ending their historic losing streak against Florida. Now, two weeks later, Kentucky has established itself as a potential dark horse national contender. Kentucky now (or, at least, as soon as the Tennessee vs Florida game goes final) is the only undefeated team, other than Georgia, in the SEC East.
Expectations were high for Mississippi State coming into this game, as the Bulldogs had easily blown out two cupcakes and impressed in a win over Kansas State. Nick Fitzgerald looks like another great Mississippi State quarterback, and the team has impressive talent on both sides of the ball. All of this led the Bulldogs to No. 14 in both major polls coming into this week.
The game was a defensive battle to start, with neither team able to gain much traction. The Wildcats sustained the first real drive of the game, but it ended in a missed 35-yard field goal. Mississippi State responded with a long touchdown drive, and looked like it was ready to take control of the game like a ranked team should. Kentucky and Snell were having none of that, though. The Kentucky defense stood tall, and a good drive to end the half meant that the Wildcats entered halftime tied on the scoreboard, but will all the momentum.
The second half was all Kentucky. The defense didn’t allow Mississippi State to do anything at all. The Bulldogs could sustain no drives, even with short fields. Kentucky only forced one turnover, but the team dominated the line of scrimmage all night, consistently frustrating the Bulldog offense.
And on offense for Kentucky, it was all Benny Snell. As a team, Kentucky only threw for 71 yards. The Wildcats didn’t need any more. Snell ran for over 150 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown scamper following Fitzgerald’s one interception. In all, Snell found the end zone four times, good for all of Kentucky’s touchdown. Between the Wildcats’ stingy defense and Snell’s dominance on offense, No. 14 Mississippi State never had a chance.
Next week, the Wildcats have a home date with South Carolina, the team that many expected to be Georgia’s potential competition in the SEC East. Four weeks into the season, Kentucky suddenly looks like that team. Kentucky and Georgia won’t meet until the first week of November, but everyone will be keeping an eye on Kentucky until then.
Mark Stoops has Kentucky off to one of its most impressive starts in decades. By the numbers, the Wildcats have started 4-0 several times in the past few decades. None were like this, though. Kentucky hasn’t won more than eight games in a season since 1984. Looking at the remaining schedule, Stoops definitely has this team in position to change that. It’s far from a guarantee- but Kentucky’s goal is now challenging for the SEC East crown, not just challenging for bowl eligibility. That’s a huge turnaround in a very short period of time for this program.