Linebacker Allen, Wildcats state their case
ORLANDO, Fla. — While some future NFL players sit out the bowl season in hopes of preserving their draft stock, Kentucky’s Josh Allen may have enhanced his.
At least he thinks so.
The Wildcats’ edge-rush extraordinaire who is expected to be among the highest picks in April’s draft delivered a message on the field with four tackles, three sacks, a blocked field goal and a quarterback hurry to spark Kentucky’s 27-24 victory Tuesday over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.
“I’ve got something to say,” Allen told the assembled media as the press conference wound down. “I’m leaving with this. You all record this. If I don’t go No. 1, I don’t know who is, and I stand true to that.”
Teammate Benny Snell, who rushed for 144 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns, encouraged his teammate, saying, “Tell them what it is, boy.”
The two put their imprint on Kentucky’s victory and left Penn State coach James Franklin impressed — with their ability and that they played in the game.
“You look at their running back and their linebacker,” he said. “I think it’s real positive for Kentucky football and college football. That’s a great sign, and obviously those guys factored in today.”
Snell got stronger as the game went on. Down 27-24, Penn State needed to make a stop in the last four minutes, but Snell powered his way for a pair of first downs to run out the clock.
“Our game plan was to stop the running back, and he made too many plays,” Franklin said. “We knew we had to stop Snell, Allen and (Lynn) Bowden (Jr.). They made plays in timely situations like great players do.”
Snell, whose great uncle Matt Snell starred for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, broke Kentucky’s career rushing record Tuesday. At one point, the strong Kentucky following chanted, “Benny, Benny,” as he neared the record.
His response was to bust up the middle for a 12-yard TD that hiked the Wildcats’ lead to 27-7.
“That’s why I was trying to get that official to give me that football for him,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “He broke the record on that run.”
Snell said, “Man, I (was) so excited. I don’t even have words for, like, how I was feeling. I was speechless.”
Snell passed Sonny Collins (3,835) for the record.
Stoops wasn’t surprised Penn State rallied from a 27-7 deficit.
“It’s a quality football team and well coached and you knew they would fight back,” he said. “I’m just proud of our team for doing the things necessary to close it out, and if you don’t have a physicality about you like that and you don’t have a guy like Benny, it’s hard to do because the whole stadium knew he was going to run the ball and grind out a first down or two to ice the game was critical.”
Kentucky improved to 10-3 — its highest victory total in more than 40 years.
“I feel like we’re going to go down as the best team to come out of Kentucky,” Allen said. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of great players on this team. You know, we haven’t won 10 games in a very long time. We haven’t beat Florida in a very long time. We haven’t broken this many records in a very long time. Just a lot of accomplishments around this team.”
Retired Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was present for his brother’s achievement.
“You look at the top programs and you look around the country and, you know, it’s built on physicality,” Mark Stoops said. “And I had a great example. And, you know, he’ll get mad at me, but my brother Bob is sitting right over here right now. And I had a chance to watch him for 20 years and watch him win a national championship in his second year. And with my father and Bob and my brother (Mike), and just so many people, I’ve had great people to follow.”