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Snell named MVP as Kentucky tops Penn State 27-24 in VRBO Citrus Bowl

Kentucky running back Benny Snell, Jr. rushed for 144 yards on 26 carries and scored two touchdowns Tuesday, lifting the Wildcats to a 27-24 victory over Penn State in the VRBO Citrus Bowl.

Snell earned game MVP honors for his effort as Kentucky improved to 10-3 on the season, locking in the program’s first 10-win campaign since 1977.

“It was extremely important to this team, to all of us, to come home with some hardware, to come home with a trophy,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said. “This team, these seniors and, of course, Benny … they’ve just done so much.

“It meant so much to this team and to this program that it was very important to finish and to collect the trophy and to win ten games and win a game on New Year’s Day.”

Kentucky’s first Orlando bowl appearance got off to a hot start, as Miles Butler put the ‘Cats on the board with a 28-yard field goal early, and Lynn Bowden, Jr. returned a punt 58 yards for a score to put UK up 10-0 after one quarter.

The punt return touchdown was the first in a Citrus Bowl since Cal’s Brian Treggs took one 72 yards to paydirt against Clemson in the 1992 edition of the game.

“Lynn is a game changer,” Stoops said. “He really does a great job. He made some very creative plays today. He’s good with the ball in his hands. We need to do a better job of making sure we find ways to get him the ball. And he’s definitely got some big play ability.”

Penn State found the end zone early in the second quarter on a one-yard touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to Nick Bowers, but the Wildcats outscored the Nittany Lions 17-0 in the third quarter thanks to two touchdown runs by Snell, giving Kentucky a 27-7 lead heading into the fourth.

“I just want (Big Blue Nation) and the fans to know that this group, especially with myself, we give our all,” Snell said. “Even when when, teams are smack talking and we’re the underdogs coming into the game, (as we were against) Mississippi State or Florida, we set the record straight that this is Kentucky football and we’re not just about to lay down.”

The latter score also moved Snell into first on Kentucky’s all-time rushing yards list.

“Man, I (was) so excited,” Snell said of the record after the game. “I (was) in the moment. I don’t even have words for how I was feeling. I was speechless.

“I know that when we ran out there, you know, I knew I was like 5 or 4 yards away,” Snell continued. “And I looked at Coach Gran and he gave me that look, like ‘Yeah,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s get it.’”

The Nittany Lions rallied in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to three on a one-yard touchdown run by McSorley, an 18-yard touchdown catch from McSorley to Pat Freiermuth and a 32-yard Jake Pinegar field goal with 4:12 to play.

However, Snell picked up two first downs the ground to help run out the clock, sealing the win for Kentucky.

“(You’ve) got to give Kentucky credit, they played really well for four quarters,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said. “We didn’t play well for four quarters.

“We played a really good second half, and against good football teams, you can’t do that,” he continued. “We didn’t make plays in the first half. If you look at it statistically, our defense played extremely well in the first half. Our offense outgained them, but we didn’t make plays.”

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