Kentucky Caps A Historic Season With Citrus Bowl Victory

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Kentucky Caps A Historic Season With Citrus Bowl Victory
ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Benny Snell Jr. #26 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts after rushing for a 12-yard touchdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions in the third quarter of the VRBO Citrus Bowl at Camping World Stadium on January 1, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Kentucky Caps A Historic Season With Citrus Bowl Victory

Throughout the 2018 season, the Kentucky Football team has been rewriting history. With a 27-24 win over Penn State in Camping World Stadium in Orlando, the Cats added a few more to their list. With both individual and team honors, let’s take a look at how Kentucky caps a historic season with a Citrus Bowl victory.

Only One Of Three Teams

With the win over the Nittany Lions, Mark Stoops’ squad finishes the season 10-3. That’s only the third time Kentucky has won 10 games in a season. The other two were 1950 and 1977. In addition, the Citrus Bowl victory is the school’s third ever on New Year’s Day. Wins in the 1951 Sugar Bowl and 1952 Cotton Bowl are the others.

In the process, the Wildcats avenged a 26-14 loss to Penn State in the 1999 Outback Bowl. They also broke a four game bowl losing streak dating back to a 2009 Liberty Bowl win over East Carolina.

Dancing With What Brought You

Throughout the 2018 season, Kentucky has won with a strong rushing game and defense. The Citrus Bowl was no exception as Benny Snell ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns. A 12-yard run in the third quarter gave the junior the all-time Kentucky rushing record. In being named the game’s MVP, Snell ran for the second most yards in UK bowl history behind Rafael Little’s 152 in the 2007 Music City Bowl.

Snell, who was playing his last game in the blue and white, finished with 3,873 yards in only three years. In addition, his 48 touchdowns rank him third all-time in SEC history behind Herschel Walker’s 49 and Tim Tebow with 57.

On the other side of the ball, Josh Allen added to his historic season as well. The senior recorded three of Kentucky’s six sacks of Trace McSorley and also blocked a Penn State field goal attempt. Following the game, Allen left no doubt where he thinks he should go in April’s NFL Draft.

Remember neither Allen or Snell had to play in the Citrus however both chose too. That’s how much winning a bowl and getting 10 victories meant to them.

Another area where Kentucky excelled was on special teams. In addition to the blocked field goal, Lynn Bowden ran a punt back 58 yards for the Cats first points.

Bowden’s score was the first punt return for a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl since 1992. California’s Brian Treggs ran one back in the Golden Bears 37-13 win over Clemson. Special teams proved to be anything but for Penn State with two missed field goals and the Bowden punt return for a touchdown. As we continue with how Kentucky caps a historic season with a Citrus Bowl victory, it almost didn’t happen.

Withstanding A Furious Rally

After Snell’s second touchdown put the Cats up 27-7 late in the third quarter, they took their foot off the gas. This allowed McSorley and Penn State to make things very interesting.

In the span of five minutes, a one-yard touchdown run by the senior and an 18 yard pass to Pat Freiermuth cut the Wildcat lead to 27-21. Meanwhile, Kentucky took Snell out of the game and the rushing game wasn’t nearly as effective. After a Wildcat punt, McSorley led Penn State down the field once again. A 32-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar made it a three point game with 4:12 to play. For the “long suffering Kentucky fan” thoughts of “please not another late game collapse” crept into everyone’s mind.

However, this is a different Kentucky team and after returning to the game Snell ran for a couple of first downs. This allowed the Cats to virtually run out the clock. Penn State eventually got the ball back with one second remaining. However, a miracle on the final play was not in the works and the celebration was on for the Big Blue Nation.

Putting It In Perspective

Stoops now joins Bear Bryant and Fran Curci as the only coaches in Kentucky history to win 10 games in a season. In addition, here are some more numbers for the Wildcats during this history making campaign.

The Cats beat five teams who won eight or more games. Those are Florida, Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State, Missouri and Penn State. Furthermore, they defeated two other teams, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, who played in bowls. Kentucky had a winning record in the SEC for the first time since 1977 and won eight games in the regular season for the first time since 1984. One last thing, how impressive was Kentucky’s defense in 2018?

Kentucky caps a historic season with a Citrus Bowl victory 27-24 over Penn State. Thank you for following this campaign with us here at Last Word On College Football. Next time, we hand out some post-season awards.

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