COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) Kentucky running backs Benny Snell and Boom Williams were just infants in 1999 when the Wildcats won three consecutive Southeastern Conference games.
Saturday, their performance helped Kentucky accomplish that feat for the first time in 17 years.
Snell rushed 38 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns, and Williams added 19 carries for 182 yards and a touchdown as the Wildcats defeated Missouri 35-21. It’s the first time in school history two running backs have rushed for at least 175 yards apiece in a conference game.
Snell said he was not fazed in carrying the ball 38 times.
“I’m very happy about this win,” Snell said. “I’m used to this in high school, but I just take a different approach, that I’ve got a better line in front of me, so I just tried to attack the defense.”
“We didn’t play strong enough run defense,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “They were able to get a few formations in that we didn’t stop.”
Stephen Johnson completed 14 of 23 pass attempts for 208 yards, two touchdowns and an interception as the Wildcats piled up 582 yards of offense, their highest conference output since Nov. 11, 2006, when they had 597 yards in a 38-26 win against Vanderbilt.
“It’s about our preparation,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said of his team’s effort. “It’s about the way they go to work each day throughout the week, starting on Mondays. I enjoy coaching these guys and that is why. They take to coaching and they take to criticism and they know we can do so many things better.”
Missouri (2-6, 0-4 Southeastern Conference) has allowed 500 or more yards of offense in four consecutive games, the worst such stretch in school history.
“This is a very elementary statement but we’re not a good football team,” Odom said. “If we work together and continue to follow the plan we have in place, then we will get there, I promise you that.”
Drew Lock was 18 of 31 for 220 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed six times for 34 yards.
Dimetrios Mason caught four passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns for Missouri. The freshman entered the game with 22 catches for 249 yards.
Damarea Crockett was one of eight ball carriers for the Tigers, leading the way with 13 carries 55 yards. Fullback Josh Augusta had the only rushing score, a 1-yard touchdown run set up by a 63-yard punt return by Johnathon Johnson. Johnson also caught two passes for 27 yards and had a 25-yard carry on a reverse.
Kentucky (5-3, 4-2 SEC) dialed up a number of big plays, averaging 7 yards per play to Missouri’s 5.6. The Wildcats converted on all three of their red zone trips and nearly doubled Missouri’s time of possession.
The Tigers managed 18 first downs, but struggled on third down, converting just 4 of 15 attempts. They were also flagged 9 times for 65 yards after surrendering 125 penalty yards last Saturday in a 51-45 loss to Middle Tennessee State.
Kentucky: Snell and Williams are just the second backfield duo in the last decade to record at least 175 yards apiece in an SEC game. Snell had runs of 32, 23 and 19 yards, and Williams had three rushes of 20 yards or more, including a 60-yard touchdown to give Kentucky a 7-0 lead near the end of the first quarter.
Missouri: The Tigers recorded one sack and six tackles for loss, and forced two turnovers, but failed to convert them into points. Missouri took the opening drive of the second half deep into Kentucky territory but was stopped on third down, setting up a 24-yard field goal attempt by Tucker McCann, which he missed wide right.
Missouri’s defense was short-handed after losing senior linebacker and leading tackler Michael Scherer for the season with a torn ACL. Scherer was one of several Missouri players injured against Middle Tennessee State, including defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. and cornerback John Gibson. Beckner is out for the season with a torn ACL, and Gibson, who injured his left knee, did not play Saturday.
“We will piece it together,” Odom said. “Everybody in the country is banged up, and that’s just college football. We will be all right.”
Kentucky: The Wildcats will host Georgia next Saturday. The Bulldogs beat Kentucky 27-3 last season in Athens.
Missouri: The Tigers visit South Carolina next Saturday. Missouri defeated the Gamecocks 24-10 on Oct. 3, 2015 at Faurot Field, its most recent SEC win.