LEXINGTON, KY — Short touchdown runs that put Kentucky ahead turned out being just the start for Benny Snell Jr. The junior running back took his game up a notch with a pair of longer TDs that not only earned a couple Wildcats records, but put the exclamation point on a thorough upset of No. 14 Mississippi State.
Snell rushed for four touchdowns to break a Kentucky career record, including two in the fourth quarter, and the Wildcats held the Bulldogs to 56 yards rushing for a 28-7 upset Saturday night.
After Tyrell Ajian‘s 35-yard interception return to the Bulldogs 36, Snell broke left and down the left sideline for his third score with 8 minutes remaining to break Randall Cobb’s previous mark of 37 total touchdowns from 2008-10.
“I tweeted that he said to go get it, you go get that record,” Snell said of his contact with the Green Bay Packers wide receiver about the record. “I saw that and I’m like, `Yeah. I gotcha.”
The junior wasn’t done and added a 23-yard TD run on the next possession for 21-point cushion the Wildcats (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) preserved for their second win over a ranked school this month. Kentucky beat then-No. 25 Florida 27-16 two weeks ago to break a 31-game losing streak to the Gators.
This victory was more rewarding as Kentucky dominated the physical Bulldogs in many phases. Snell helped set the stage with had TD runs of 1 and 2 yards to finish with 165 on 25 carries, his 15th career 100-yard game. His four rushing TDs also matched a school record he shares with Don Phelps. Kentucky rushed for 229 overall and outgained the Bulldogs 300-201 under a steady drizzle.
MSU (3-1, 0-1) meanwhile was hit in the mouth after outscoring opponents by a 150-26 margin.
The Bulldogs were held nearly 256 rushing yards below their SEC-leading average of 311.7 coming in. They only managed Nick Fitzgerald‘s 1-yard TD run midway through the second quarter before Kentucky tied the game with 50 seconds left in the half on Snell’s first TD from 2 yards.
MSU never got back in gear and gained just 53 yards after the break.
“I think we played hard in all three phases,” first-year Bulldogs coach Joe Moorhead said. “We just didn’t execute with the precision we needed to beat a team of Kentucky’s caliber.”
A moment of silence was held before the game to honor Marco Lee Shemwell, 4, who was struck and killed outside Kroger Field by a car driven by a Kentucky freshman following last week’s game against Murray State. Jacob Heil, 18, was charged with DUI on Monday. The school suspended him and his fraternity.
Bring ‘Em Out
Kentucky’s announced attendance of 60,037 on a rainy night was a season high after it failed to break 50,000 for its previous two home games.
Mississippi State will likely fall a few spots in the Top 25 after moving up this week.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs drove 80 yards for their lone TD and highlight on a night one of the SEC’s most physical teams was pushed all over the field. Dual threat QB Fitzgerald was 16 of 31 for 145 yards but limited from doing damage with his feet as usual. Defensively, the Bulldogs had no answer for Snell once he got going and managed just 201 yards after entering the game averaging 587.7.
Kentucky: Not since 2008 have the Wildcats begun 4-0 in league play, while their 2-0 SEC start is their best since 1977. But they’re there because they controlled the line of scrimmage most of the game and didn’t falter after squandering some early opportunities. The defense but didn’t break through until after allowing MSU to score first. They also recorded three sacks that not only stifled the Bulldogs’ comeback hopes, but earned consecutive wins over ranked opponents for the first time since 1977.
“We talked all week that the more physical team was going to win,” coach Mark Stoops said. “We talked all week about winning the one-on-one matchups. And then, situational football: two-minute drives, third down, red zone. That’s what we did.”
Mississippi State faces its second consecutive SEC East school when it hosts Florida on Saturday. It’s also the first time the Bulldogs face former coach Dan Mullen, who guided them from 2009-17 before taking over the Gators this season.
Kentucky hosts SEC East foe South Carolina, seeking its fifth consecutive series victory over the Gamecocks.
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It’s the Sights of the Game, presented by Black Hills Regional Eye Institute.