ORLANDO, Fla. — If there is a program that knows the value of having both a mobile quarterback and a talented running back, it’s Penn State.
The Nittany Lions have leaned on one of their own the past three years, and have faced them across the Big Ten for the better part of the last two decades.
And on Tuesday, another combo will add their name to the list as a talented Benny Snell and quarterback Terry Wilson take the field for Kentucky. Snell has rushed for over 100 yards on six occasions while Wilson has run for over 70 in four games this year. For comparison Trace McSorley has done that three times this year, Sanders on five occasions.
All four of them provide quite the headache for defenses. The good news for Penn State, dealing with two threats in the backfield is par for the course these days.
“We have the good fortune of seeing that every day in practice,” Senior safety Nick Scott said earlier this week of Wilson’s mobility. “So it just changes your game plan, your approach, when you have a dual threat guy and he’s — you know, not only is he able to run, he’s got tremendous size. And so he’s certainly a factor in what we have to do to play good defense in the game.”
As for Snell, Penn State hasn’t given up over 100-yards rushing to a single player in a bowl game since Jonathan Hilliman had 148-yards for Boston College at the Pinstripe Bowl back in 2014. The same can be said for the last time a quarterback rushed for more than 50-yards as Tyler Murphy ran for 105 in Yankee Stadium.
“He’s obviously a quality back,” Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry said of Snell earlier this week. “And we’ve seen our fair share of those, but he’s very patient. He’s a four quarter back. He runs very hard. He’s physical. You know, he punishes would be tacklers. I think, over the course of a game, like a lot of backs, I guess, they get better, but he particularly — he wears on your defense. As you watch games in their entirety, you see guys not defending him as well late in games. And so we know it’s going to be a four quarter battle with him and we’ve got to be physical in game tackle and it’s going to take a united effort to slow him down.”
How good is Snell? The junior is 19th in the nation in yards per game averaging 117.5. He has 14 touchdowns to his name and is 13th in the nation in total rushing with 1305 yards. His 1410 yards of total offense is good enough 19th in the country as well.
So sure, the Nittany Lions have seen it before, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to deal with come Tuesday afternoon.