ORLANDO, Fla. — With every step late in a tight Citrus Bowl, Benny Snell earned every syllable of the “Benny, Benny, Benny” chant from the crowd that filled the Camping World Stadium.
Snell set the school career rushing record in the third quarter, but his runs in the final minutes when Penn State had whittled a 20-point Cats lead down to three won the game.
The junior running back, who will go onto the NFL Draft after this game, found his way through a crowded line of scrimmage to get enough first downs to help the Cats win 27-24.
It was the first bowl win of the Coach Mark Stoops era and helped Kentucky get to 10 wins for the first time since 1977.
Snell finished with 144 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Terry Wilson, the former GCCC Broncbuster, went 9-for-15 for 121 yards. He also had 29 yards on the ground.
Penn State outgained Kentucky 410-297 behind Trace McSorley’s 246 yards passing with two scores and his 75 yards rushing. Miles Sanders added 51 yards on the ground.
Senior Darius West led the UK defense with 10 tackles. Kash Daniel added eight Josh Allen had four tackles, three of them sacks.
After a lackluster first half for the offense that included an 0-for-7 performance on third down, the Cats asserted themselves in the third, with three straight 65-plus yard drives leading to points.
First it was Snell scoring on a 2-yard run to make it 17-7, then it was a Miles Butler field goal from 28 yards out.
Then, the Cats went up by 20 points as Snell went in 12 yards for the touchdown and UK’s all-time career rushing record.
Snell took over the top spot 43 years after Sonny Collins set it for Kentucky.
The Cats’ 20-point lead and celebratory mood was quickly quieted by a Penn State surge.
The Nittany Lions cut it to 27-14 on a 1-yard scoring run by Trace McSorley that capped a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive. It was especially big for the quarterback, who looked done for the day on the Penn State sideline with an injury to open the second half.
McSorley kept it going a few minutes later when he found Pat Freiermuth for an 18-yard touchdown pass after Penn State drove 60 yards down the field in six plays.
In between those scores, the Cats had back-to-back three-and-outs, amassing just 11 yards and eating up little clock with the lead.
Penn State edged even closer with a little more than four minutes to play on a 32-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar, who had missed two earlier in the game. That kick got the Nittany Lions within three points at 27-24.
Special teams was especially special for Kentucky in the first half, with the Cats grabbing the lead on a 28-yard field goal.
The Nittany Lions missed on their 40-yard chance to tie it later in the first quarter and another attempt by Pinegar (this time from 36 yards) in the final minute of the first half that would’ve tied it at 10-10 was tipped by Allen.
Lynn Bowden gave Kentucky its lone touchdown of the first half with a 58-yard punt return for a score late in the first quarter to put the Cats up 10-0.
It was the first punt return for a score in the Citrus Bowl since 1992, and it was the second punt return for a score this season for Bowden, who had a game-changing one at Missouri.
Other special teams highlights included UK sniffing out a fake punt on Penn State’s opening series and a stunning 67-yard punt by Max Duffy in the final seconds of the half.
The sophomore pinned four punts inside the 20-yard line in the first two quarters.