By LARRY VAUGHT
Should Benny Snell have called out some Kentucky teammates for a lack of effort after the Cats lost 24-7 at Tennessee Saturday?
“I feel like on the team, there’s not guys that have that dog mentality. You know what I’m saying? (Players) that want it, that are hungry for it. It was obvious that Tennessee wanted it more than Kentucky, so that’s why the outcome was what it was,” said Snell. “We’ve got to eliminate those guys that don’t have that hunger. If you don’t have it anymore, we don’t need you.”
Eliminate those guys?
“Put the guys in that want to play. Put the guys in that are not going to hurt the team, that are going to make us better,” Snell said.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Monday he had no problem with what Snell said after the loss.
“I appreciated Benny pointing those things out and that’s what leaders should do, and I don’t think he’s pointing at anyone personally, just in general,” Stoops said.
Obviously, Snell is as frustrated as most UK fans. Despite being 7-3, Kentucky’s offense has gone missing.
— On Sept. 29, UK beat South Carolina 24-10 but didn’t score the second half.
— On. Oct. 6, UK lost 20-14 in overtime at Texas A&M and one touchdown came on a fumble return by safety Darius West and the other on basically a forward lateral that Lynn Bowden turned into a 54-yard run and score.
— On. Oct. 20, UK beat Vanderbilt 14-7 and was sluggish from start to finish.
— On Oct. 27, UK won 15-14 at Missouri and one touchdown came on a punt return by Bowden after he put himself into the game.
— On Nov. 3, Kentucky fell 34-17 to Georgia and didn’t have a touchdown the first half. The final touchdown came on a pass that deflected off a Tennessee defender.
— On. Nov. 10, UK lost 24-7 at Tennessee and didn’t have a touchdown in the first half again.
No wonder Snell, who was mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate early in the season when UK was putting up big rushing totals, is frustrated.
“I don’t have a problem with it. I’d obviously rather him not say it but maybe it needed to be said,” SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic said when I asked him about Snell’s comments.
Former Kentucky running back Anthony White viewed it differently. He thought Snell was off base to go public with his concerns.
“If Benny wants to be critical, then you want to sit down and break down film with him and see his shortcomings, too,” White said. “It’s not really a knock on Benny. You have to keep things between the team and remember there are people who see what you do when you do not carry the ball.”
Another former Cat, defensive back Van Hiles, understands Snell’s frustrations. However, he said Snell voicing his displeasure to the media now means the media will key on his comments all week — and I think he’s right about that.
Without being in the locker room, it’s hard to know what might be going on. Who’s not mentally ready to play? Who might have lost confidence in the team? Who could be questioning play calling or anything else?
Remember at Missouri when Lynn Bowden basically put himself into the game to return a punt — and scored a touchdown. Even basketball coach John Calipari praised him for being “empowered” and taking leadership into his own hands. Mark Stoops has shared stories of disagreeing with players on the sideline and tearing into them. Some like Josh Allen respond to that, others may not.
“We’ve got to get those guys that are hungry. We’ve got to have everybody sold on this team and on this mission,” Snell said Saturday. “This loss hurt. It hurt. The Georgia one, we were so close but that one hurt too. I don’t want to say it snowballs, because I see how people are around practice and how people are around the facility. It’s just about executing.”