In the last four seasons, Kentucky has averaged 211.5 yards per game rushing in consecutive wins over South Carolina. This season, the Wildcats bring the SEC’s leading rusher into their Saturday night contest against the Gamecocks.
“Our biggest goal is to stop the run,” South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “At the end of the day, they are going to try to run the ball. Our goal is to stop the run, and everything else will fall into place.”
That means stopping Benny Snell, who is averaging 135 yards per game, which is tops in the SEC and third in the nation. Snell also is first in the conference and third in the nation in rushing touchdowns with seven.
“Obviously, Benny Snell is an outstanding back,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “Runs violent, runs tough, competitive, runs the way you’re supposed to run. I really respect him.”
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This week, Snell’s school released an introductory video of their star on a website titled SnellYeah.com to tout the 5-foot-11, 223-pound junior in the Heisman Trophy race.
“He runs hard, runs through contact, he’s patient and he’s got big-play ability,” South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams said.
Deshaun Fenwick, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound freshman, is playing the role of Snell for the Gamecocks scout team this week.
“I don’t know you can mimic (Snell). There’s not many of them out there,” Muschamp said. “You’ve got to swarm the ball. That’s the bottom line. When you play really, really good backs, they’re going to make you miss, they’re going to break some tackles. You’ve got to swarm the football, you got to leverage the ball the right way, the ball-carrier’s never down until the whistle blows. You’ve got to finish on the ball-carrier.”
Snell, who had 102 yards against South Carolina last season, has 2,964 career rushing yards. That ranks fifth in school history and he already holds the Wildcats record for career touchdowns (39). Only two running backs currently in FBS have more rushing touchdowns in their career. Snell’s uncle Matt Snell was the N.Y. Jets leading rusher in the Jets upset victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
“You just have to be disciplined. Whatever the coaches call, I have to make sure I do it,” Allen-Williams said. “Everybody has to do their job. It’s not going to be one person able to come out and dominate. We have to play team defense. If he gets one crease, he can take it to the house. He’s a great running back.”
The Wildcats have dominated South Carolina on the ground during their four-game winning streak, rushing for 239 yards in 2014, 207 yards in 2015, 216 yards in 2016 and 184 yards last year.
“You got to have the right mindset going into the game and I think that’s something that’s really important when you play a back like Snell because he is a guy you’re going to have to gang-tackle to get on the ground,” Muschamp said. “Those are obvious things that you talk about every week but obviously, the antennas are up a little bit more because our players respect him as a football player and a running back.”