Music City Bowl
See all of KSR’s coverage from Kentucky’s 2017 Music City Bowl matchup with Northwestern.
By Nick Roush on ©January 17th, 2018 @ 8:30am
Two controversial calls in the Music City Bowl incited rage across the Big Blue Nation. A few fans took it too far.
ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura reports Pac-12 official Chris Coyte and his crew have been harassed by Kentucky fans since the December 29 loss to Northwestern in Nashville.
In the days following the game, Coyte received a barrage of threatening calls to his cell and office phones, sources said, as did the commercial real estate association he belongs to.
Benny Snell’s ejection and the missed late hit on Stephen Johnson were not great calls. That does not matter; you should never, under any circumstances, harass or threaten an official. This behavior is unacceptable and tarnishes the reputation of Kentucky fans everywhere.
By Nick Roush on ©January 11th, 2018 @ 5:34pm
UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart publicly defended the Kentucky football team’s actions at the Music City Bowl. We’ve now learned that he also voiced his grievances in an official letter to the Pac-12 conference.
Addressed to the Pac-12’s vice president of officiating, David Coleman, Barnhart used strong language to defend his football team. Here are just a few of the excerpts regarding Benny Snell’s ejection that were obtained via open records request by the Herald-Leader:
“We feel great disappointment that what was supposed to be a quality bowl experience for our young people and our university was marred by these incidents.”
“The intent of the no-contact rule – protection of officials – was not adhered to in this case,” Barnhart said in his opening paragraphs. “Video of the incident does not support the call made on the field or the statement made by the officiating crew postgame.”
Barnhart also addressed the missed late hit that forced Stephen Johnson to temporarily exit the game with an injury. UK’s Orthopedic doctor was quoted, “calling it a safety issue for both the player and those treating him.”
Kentucky’s athletic director should be applauded for going to bat for his players. Barnhart has done everything in his power to make right all the Music City Bowl wrongs.
Read more of Mitch Barnhart’s Letter to the Pac-12 from the Herald-Leader.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©January 05th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
Mark Stoops made a surprise appearance on KSR today and had some candid comments about Benny Snell’s ejection from the Music City Bowl. After the game, Stoops told reporters that he didn’t see the incident, so he didn’t feel comfortable commenting on it, but after a week of reflection, he didn’t hold back at today’s remote at Shake Shack, calling the referee a liar for claiming Benny pushed him when he offered to help him up.
“The call on Benny was inexcusable. And it absolutely — I still haven’t gotten an explanation because [the referee] lied to me. He obviously lied. I stand behind Benny 100% and I think it’s the worst call I’ve ever seen.”
Stoops said he did his best to not lose his “s-h-i-t-” (he actually spelled it out on the radio) over that call and the no-call on the late hit on Stephen Johnson later in the second quarter because it would just have penalized his team further.
“It does me no good to lose my s-h-i-t. It does me no good to lose it like that. Believe me, you know it takes me everything not to. So, there were a lot of things going on at the beginning of that game were aggravating and perplexing.”
“What can I do? There’s really nothing I can do. You want to react in a way, but that’s going to do me no good. It’s just going to hurt me down the road in some situation. And that stinks, to be honest.”
A week later, that call still stings.
By Nick Roush on ©January 05th, 2018 @ 1:00pm
For the first time since Kentucky’s appearance in the controversial Music City Bowl, Mark Stoops spoke to the Big Blue Nation.
In front of a LIVE Lexington audience at Shake Shack, Kentucky’s head coach had a candid conversation with Matt Jones and KSR callers. You’ve probably already heard his remarks about Benny Snell, but there’s much more important information revealed in the 30-minute interview. Stoops talked about roster and coaching staff changes, defensive improvements in 2018, young players who will surprise you next year and much more.
Stoops’ surprise interview was a home-run. If you were ever frustrated with the football team this season, the Kentucky football coach will say everything you need to hear to get back on board. You simply can’t afford to miss it.
Freddie Maggard is still fed up with the officiating from the Music City Bowl. He’s so mad, on his way home from the game he refused to spend a dime on food or gas until he crossed the Kentucky border. Hear the fire and fury from Freddie’s rage, as well as…
— Players should determine the outcome of the game, what a radical thought.
— Proof Kentucky learned their lesson vs. Louisville.
— Why this game bothered Freddie more than any other.
— Freddie’s emotional moment with Stephen Johnson following the Music City Bowl.
— Thoughts on transfers.
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to Kentucky Sports Radio on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
By Drew Franklin on ©January 03rd, 2018 @ 2:15pm
UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart has now joined the crowd of people who have been very outspoken about Benny Snell’s ejection from the Music City Bowl.
Barnhart released a series of tweets Wednesday afternoon to say he doesn’t believe Snell deserved the ejection, and it cost the fans from seeing one of the best backs in the country versus an excellent Northwestern team.
“While this is not something I would typically comment on,” Barnhart wrote. “I feel it is important to do so since Benny’s intentions and character have been called into question.”
Read his full comments:
Much has been made of the ejection of Benny Snell last week. While this is not something I would typically comment on, I feel it is important to do so since Benny’s intentions and character have been called into question.
Benny, who has been a quality young man in our program, has my full support and the support of Coach Stoops and our football program.
Benny’s frustration and his passion for the game are why he reacted the way he did, but he was not deserving of an ejection. It is unfortunate our fans didn’t get to see one of the best running backs in the country play against an excellent Northwestern team.
Our team is worthy of praise for their preparation for the bowl and their response to adversity in the game. I know Benny and his teammates are excited to get back to work and continue to make the #BBN proud in 2018. #WeAreUK
You know it’s a bad call when Mitch Barnhart feels the need to say something.
By Nick Roush on ©January 02nd, 2018 @ 5:30pm
Benny Snell’s early exit probably cost Kentucky a Music City Bowl victory. One call from an egotistical official took the Kentucky running back out of the game and thrust Snell into the bright college football bowl season spotlight. It hurt the Cats in the short-term, but it paved the way for Snell to have unprecedented long-term success.
Prior to his ejection, Snell rushed six times for 15 yards and a touchdown. He could have run for 215 yards and 4 touchdowns, yet still received less national attention.
Entering the Music City Bowl, Snell was a regional star. He led the SEC in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns at the conclusion of the regular season, but only Kentucky fans and diehard SEC football followers really knew much about Benny. After the egregious ejection, he became a household name.
Snell quickly sky-rocketed to the top of Twitter’s trending charts. If you were online, you were complaining about the call. College football fans and writers weren’t the only ones Tweeting about Snell. Seth Meyers of Late Night fame weighed in, while Keith Olbermann made more than one bombastic critique of the officials. Tim Tebow and Booger McFarland’s defense of Snell became the centerpiece of the halftime show.
Snell was the big story on a big stage. The Music City Bowl drew a 3.0 overnight rating, equivalent to about 5 million people. It was one of the highest-rated non-New Year’s Six Bowls, only beaten by Notre Dame and LSU’s ABC-televised Citrus Bowl.
After the game, Benny found a way to become even more endearing to his new fans. He took a page from Marshawn Lynch and created another viral moment. When asked about the incident, he responded by saying, “I have a great passion for the game,” and, “I love to play football.” During Sportscenter, game highlights received the same amount of time as Snell’s postgame remarks.
Just as Snell was about to exit the college football conversation, Mark Richt thrust him right back into it. Before halftime of the Orange Bowl, more than 11.5 million people watched the Miami head coach lose his mind and grab an official.
Naturally, the internet world began comparing the actions of Snell and Richt. Outrage was heard throughout the world and Snell was once again trending. The clip below alone was viewed more than 63,000 times Saturday night.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 31, 2017
Even though the poor call took Snell off the big stage, he still was able to use the stage to his advantage. If Snell can harness the newfound fame and improve his product on the field, it’s not crazy to think he could be a preseason dark horse Heisman candidate.
Heisman? Really?!? You’re drunk, Roush.
It’s not that crazy. He had 1,091 yards without playing in two games as a true freshman. This year he had 1,333 yards with a midseason slump and without a vertical passing threat. At that rate of improvement, he’ll rush for 1,572 yards and become the No. 10 career rushing leader in SEC history.
Numbers alone aren’t enough to be considered for the Heisman Trophy. Lamar Jackson proved that this year. However, numbers and hype can insert you into the conversation. He now has the name recognition, the most elusive asset to acquire at Kentucky.
A Heisman candidacy is, and will always be a longshot for a Kentucky football player. What’s different now it that Benny Snell’s name now carries a little bit of weight, something he’s earned on the playing field over the last two years but has been too often overlooked because he plays at Kentucky.
Benny Snell had a bright future when he stepped onto the field at Nissan Stadium. He left it earlier than anticipated, but the buzz created a higher ceiling for Snell than we could have ever imagined.
An After Action Review is an Army method utilized to analyze an intended action. Let’s apply a version of this process to the Kentucky vs. Northwestern football game to determine what caused the final outcome as well as addressing the Cat’s need to sustain and improve:
WHAT WERE INTENDED RESULTS
Win the football game.
WHAT WERE ACTUAL RESULTS
Lost the football game 23-24.
WHAT CAUSED OUR RESULTS
— Referee ejected Benny Snell for incidental contact with an official. The sports world, including Northwestern trained media types, have questioned this call. It has also been labeled by some as the worst ejection in the history of football.
— Quarterback Stephen Johnson was hit 16.2 feet out of bounds, no flag was called for late hit. UK was penalized 15-yards, took it out of field position.
— Northwestern Linebacker Paddy Fisher was ejected for targeting.
— The two best players on the field were not on the field for the fans to enjoy.
— Mark Stoops made the right call to go for two and the win.
— Pat Fitzgerald made the right calls by attempting six, 4th down conversions.
— Both coaches coached for the win.
WHAT WILL WE SUSTAIN–IMPROVE?
— Music City Bowl representatives and hosts treated me great. Although Nashville still isn’t my favorite city by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t dislike it as much as before December 29 at 3:25 p.m.
What does all this mean?
Tune into Depth Chart Podcast.
Kentucky Running Back Benny Snell
- Sophomore running back Benny Snell rushed six times for 15 yards and one touchdown.
- Snell finished the season with 1,333 rushing yards, most by a sophomore in school history.
- Snell has 2,424 rushing yards in his career, currently eighth in school history.
- Finished the year with school records for most rushing touchdowns in a season (19) and career (32).
- Finished the season with a school record 116 points.
- 194 points in his career, moving past Craig Yeast (192 points) for seventh place on the UK career scoring list.
- First Team All SEC.
Northwestern Linebacker Paddy Fisher
- Freshman finished the Music City Bowl with 3 tackles and 1 tackle for loss.
- Led all FBS first year players with 110 tackles, 62 solo.
- Big Ten Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.
- All-Big Ten.
- First Team Freshman All American.
Hard working Kentucky and Northwestern fans paid a bunch of money to watch two of the better football players in the country put on a show in a postseason exhibition game in Nashville, otherwise known as the Music City Bowl. Both the Blue and Purple Wildcat Nations were disappointed after Benny Snell and Paddy Fisher were erroneously ejected from the contest. I felt cheated that I didn’t get to watch 60-minutes of Snell vs. Fisher.
On-field player safety is paramount. That should always be the case. However, both calls that sent the superstars to the locker room were questionable at best. No, just plain inexplicable. Fisher’s tackle was textbook. But apparently my opinion of a form tackle is now a foul.
You can read all about the Snell incident all over Kentucky Sports Radio.com and the rest of the internets but you may want to tune into the Depth Chart Podcast as I plan on unleashing an uncensored opinion from the vantage point I had from the field.
I have a different take on bowl games than most. I feel the exhibitions are rewards for the fans first and should be treated as such. Friday’s game was less enjoyable due to the most disjointed exhibition of officiating that I’ve ever seen in person. I am not a part of the Music City Bowl; at all. I didn’t play, coach, officiate, keep stats, or have any official capacity other than flapping my gums on the radio. But, I’d like to apologize to fans that spent money to watch stars play; not sit in the locker room. Let’s talk about the game now; if I can.
I have the upmost respect for the Northwestern Wildcats. Pat Fitzgerald is an impressive man and leader of student-athletes. NU players were respectful before, during, and after the game which was a reflection of their head coach. Sure, things occasionally got heated on the field, but that’s football.
The Big Ten Cats played hard; hats off to the Music City Bowl champions. The ejected Paddy Fisher is the best freshman linebacker in America. Running back Justin Jackson was special as expected. Heartfelt prayers for QB Clayton Thorson who was injured on a throw-back play. On-field sportsmanship and respect between the games participants were honorable for the most part. I will now follow Northwestern and hope to see Fitzgerald’s team experience continued success.
But, as you can read above, Kentucky star running back Benny Snell was taken off the field by an official’s interpretation of unintentional contact with a referee. At that point, the game fell on the broken shoulders and wobbly legs of the toughest UK quarterback in recent memory-Stephen Johnson. Respect.
However, we have to go there again. Enter the White Hat. Johnson was driven off the playing field and tackled five yards out of bounds. Instead of a personal foul on its opponent, the play resulted in a 15-yard penalty against Kentucky, which took it out of field goal position. The play was live. An injured player was laying on the ground five yards out of bounds. The play should have stopped in order to protect the quarterback, but the clock continued to roll. You know, the primary role of the White Hat is to protect the quarterback. That did not happen. Johnson was taken to the locker room. His game was apparently over. Attrition and strong running by NU RB Justin Jackson led to a 7-17 halftime deficit for Mark Stoops.
Stephen Johnson injures his right shoulder on this hit, that was not called for a late hit (pretty egregious takedown)
And Kentucky got an unsportsmanlike for complaining, apparently. This is awful. pic.twitter.com/vMaVWtAC9E
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) December 29, 2017
Johnson heroically returned to the huddle in the second half to lead a valiant comeback and was a failed two-point conversion short of winning the football game. WR Tavin Richardson played the game of his career with 5 catches for 89-yards.
I can’t properly communicate how difficult Johnson’s second half task was due to the Wildcat’s void at running back. With no run threat, the second half was essentially a 7 vs. 11 contest. Linebackers didn’t have to honor the run and immediately dropped to pass defense positions. Defensive linemen were free of run-defense responsibilities and pinned their ears back to rush the quarterback on downs 1-4. For the most part, UK’s senior quarterback performed at an extremely high level in spite of injury. Johnson finished the game 19-36, 257-yards, and 2 rushing touchdowns. There were three dropped passes and a Johnson pick-six. I said the offense’s game was gallant, not perfect.
The Kentucky defense played its guts out in the second half. It did not allow a touchdown as NU scored on a pick-six. True freshman OLB Josh Paschal filled in nicely for the suspended Denzil Ware. Josh Allen did Josh Allen things. NT Tymere Dubose played like the defensive lineman I projected years back on National Signing Day. Cornerback Derrick Baity broke up 4 passes. His running mate Chris Westry blanketed receivers. Safety Darius West run and pass blitzed his way to accumulate 11 tackles. Senior linebacker Courtney Love battled in his last game and racked up 10 stops. Credit defensive coordinator Matt House. Kentucky bent, but did not break and held the Purple Wildcats to 8-points under it scoring average. It stopped NU 1/5 times on 4th down.
As for the 2-point conversion decision. I absolutely loved it. Remember, bowls are exhibition games for the fans. Why not roll the dice and finish the improbable comeback win with :37 remaining on the clock? Fans have called for aggressive play calling. That happened. This same decision is annually made in the postseason. Johnson’s pass fell incomplete.
Kentucky lost the game on the scoreboard but won back respect from a portion the Big Blue Nation. It sure as heck earned my admiration. While Eddie Gran’s offensive game plan was thrown out of the Nissan Stadium window when Snell exited the playing surface, his side of the football displayed tremendous tenacity by running 61 plays and totaling 338-yards against a very good defense.
Got to replace this guy. I love this dude for many reasons that don’t involve the game of football. Stephen Johnson has a heart of a champion. The senior played hurt for most of 2017. He made no excuses. We chatted after the game. We hugged. I told him to look me in the eyes then said, “You played with more heart than any of us (UK QB Fraternity) ….ever.”
NFL decisions will be announced soon. Tight end CJ Conrad has already declared his return for a senior season. Up next are OLB Josh Allen and Safety/Nickel Mike Edwards. Winter workouts will start in a week or so. The sting and disgust from the travesty in Nashville should motivate Mark Stoops’ team to begin preparation for 2018. Four of its first six games are against SEC opponents; two on the road. There’s no time to sulk. However, there will be months to remained ticked off about how 2017 ended. Two bad losses against Louisville and Georgia are now joined by an unfair fight in Nashville.
I’ll write a true X and O, personnel nerdy post tomorrow. As for now, I had to get some stuff off my chest. Thanks for following along this season. I truly appreciate every read and podcast listen. The BBN showed America why it’s the best fan base in all the land with its support of a double-header that saw Cal’s Cats roll Louisville and Stoops’ bunch leave their hearts on the field in Nashville.
By Nick Roush on ©December 30th, 2017 @ 1:15pm
Following Kentucky’s Music City Bowl loss, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart briefly spoke to reporters outside of the UK locker room. He talked about a variety of topics and backed up his Wildcats in 100 percent of his statements. His best statement was about Benny Snell’s ejection.
— Lee K. Howard (@HowardWKYT) December 30, 2017
Same, Mitch. Same.
By Nick Roush on ©December 29th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
After the last Kentucky football game, fans were embarrassed by the team’s fight. When adversity struck against Louisville, they fought after the whistles rather than in-between them. The Music City Bowl was a completely different story.
It would have been easy to give up after Benny Snell’s ejection and Stephen Johnson’s late-hit injury. Instead of folding, the Cats used it as motivation.
“Benny getting ejected, and also when Stephen went down and got hit late after the play, that just made everybody come together and want to play ball even harder,” Tavin Richardson said after the game.
“Everybody was very confident that we’d go out and put ourselves in a position to win the game and give ourselves an opportunity,” Mark Stoops said. “We talked about just getting our composure, executing and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I was very proud of this group to do that.”
Outside observers were unsure if Stephen Johnson would return from the halftime locker room ready to play. Stoops had a feeling his quarterback would be ready to go. Sure enough, Stephen was prepared to mount a comeback.
“It doesn’t surprise me because I’ve seen it. I know the way he competes and I know how tough he is and I know if there’s any way he can play, he will play,” Stoops said. “He’s pushed it to the limit as much as any player I’ve been around, particularly a quarterback. He’ll always be remembered for that, for his toughness and his guts.”
Johnson gutted Kentucky to a score on UK’s first drive of the second half. With Johnson in the game, Kentucky had a fighting chance. Even after a pick six, they persisted. The defense made two clutch fourth down stops and the offense did everything right…until Johnson failed to connect with Richardson on the final pass of the game.
“It’s a matter of inches. It says a lot about the identity of our team and the character and I appreciate it. We fought and we played,” said Stoops.
Many fans needed to see a victory to erase the Louisville embarrassment. Kentucky did not leave Nashville with a victory, but their fight gave fans something to be proud of.
“I’m proud of this football team,” Stoops said. “I’m proud of the way we fought back and competed and put ourselves in a position to win this game. We came up inches short and that hurts. I hurt for these players more than anything because they laid it on the line…Sometimes you come up yards and inches off, and that was the case today.”
By Nick Roush on ©December 29th, 2017 @ 10:05pm
Players were still in the locker room following last year’s TaxSlayer Bowl loss when Boom Williams announced he would forego his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. Kentucky’s junior NFL Draft prospects did not make that mistake this year.
All-SEC Second Team selection Josh Allen had 7 tackles with scouts from the Titans, Cowboys, Bengals, and Bears in attendance at Nissan Stadium. Allen told reporters he will make his NFL decision in the near future.
“I still got a couple days left to make my decision,” Allen said. “I got a couple people I need to talk to and discuss with. That time will come.”
Mike Edwards, who also had 7 tackles in tonight’s game, is considered the most likely UK junior to make the leap to the NFL. He did not announce tonight that he’s taking that leap, but he did give a sheepish grin when he said, “I am going to see my family.”
Kentucky had a chance to take the lead or tie it up with 37 seconds left and Mark Stoops elected to go for two; it may not feel like it right now, but that was the right call.
With no Benny Snell and Stephen Johnson hanging on by a thread, the odds of Kentucky stopping Northwestern and being able to mount a game-winning drive in overtime seemed slim. With momentum behind them, Kentucky took a shot; unfortunately, it slipped right through Tavin Richardson’s hands.
“It’s difficult,” Stoops said when asked about the two-point attempt afterwards. “I’m good with it. If you ask me if I could do it again, of course I would. We had the correct option. We had the look that we wanted and we were fractions off.”
After falling hard on his AC joint and leaving the game in the second quarter, Stephen Johnson gritted his way through the rest of the game and got the ball close to Richards, but unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Regardless, Johnson says he’s “100%” behind the decision to go for it.
“Bowl games like this, if you’ve got momentum going into that last drive, you definitely go for it. Regular season is different but in this game, you go for it.”
On the radio, Charles Walker said the team has been practicing the two-point play for “at least this whole month if not the whole year” and if it were up to him, he would go for it “100 times out of 100 times.”
Eddie Gran told reporters that the team has actually been practicing three two-point attempt plays over the last month, and this one gave them the best shot.
“Yeah, we had three of them and that one gave us a lot of options,” Gran said. “We’ve been running all three of them for the last four weeks, so there was no hesitation whatsoever.”
“[Stoops] didn’t hesitate either,” Gran said. “He had already said before I’d run the quarterback run play, ‘If you score, get the two point conversion.'”
Sadly, football is a… wait for it…
“We got hung up. You can’t get hung up right there. It would have been an easier opportunity for the ball if you don’t get hung up, but it’s a game of inches. It was inches.”
By Nick Roush on ©December 29th, 2017 @ 9:45pm
Benny Snell pulled a Marshawn Lynch.
Facing reporters following his ejection, Snell was prepared to face the noise with a simple statement that mirrored his postgame Tweet. “I got a very strong passion for the game. I don’t feel like I did anything. I don’t need help getting up.”
After that, it felt like the interview was taking place at the 2015 Super Bowl Media Day. Instead of, “I’m here so I don’t get fined,” Snell said, “I got a very strong passion for the game,” and, “I like to play football.”
After about a minute, Snell eventually cracked to compliment his quarterback.
“Stephen, he’s like a quarterback god to me. I’ve seen that man take too many hits that you don’t come back from. He’s came back, he’s overcome so much adversity. That’s one of the greatest quarterbacks that I’ve ever been beside of. He has a lot of heart and I’m so happy for him. He had a great journey.”
After today one thing is clear: Stephen and Benny have a lot of passion and love to play football.
The referee who disqualified Benny Snell was made available to the media afterwards and stood behind his call.
“The player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away and contacted me,” The ref said, via Adam Sparks of the Tennessean. “That’s a foul.”
The official insisted the contact with Snell was intentional, not incidental, but said Snell DID NOT say anything to him that would have warranted an ejection. My gosh.
Mark Stoops told reporters that he didn’t see the interaction between Snell and the official, so he couldn’t comment on it.
“I really didn’t see it at all,” Stoops said. “The official told me that Benny grabbed him and shoved him. If Benny grabbed him and shoved him, then he deserved to be ejected. I don’t know.”
As you can see, Benny did not grab the ref and shove him:
Stephen Johnson also didn’t see it.
“I really didn’t see much. I was just looking for the play and all of a sudden, I see a flag in the air. Like Caoch Stoops said, somebody told me he grabbed him and shoved the ref, but whether that’s true or not, I didn’t see it.”
On the radio, Stoops relayed what Snell told him happened.
“What [the official] told me is that Benny shoved him. Physically shoved him and he had to call it. What Benny told me, ‘I got up and it was like any play. I rolled over and got up.'”
Meanwhile, Stoops was much more upset with what happened when Stephen Johnson was hit out of bounds, which took him out of the game.
“I don’t want anyone saying I’m crying over officiating. I was just upset that the procedure during that sequence was so jacked up. I had a quarterback injured four feet from the field and the clock was winding. I was contemplating going for it there and I have my quarterback lying on the ground and Drew wasn’t even warmed up.”
“It’s just not safe. You have a guy four feet out of bounds laying there severely hurt. I was looked at like I had three heads and they didn’t care or whatever. This was my fault, I had the official come look and see that he’s hurt and one of my guys [Kendall Randolph] said something.”
Unfortunately, officiating will overshadow a gritty performance by Kentucky tonight, and that’s a damn shame.
Kentucky responded to obscene adversity but could not complete a comeback. The Cats dropped to 7-6 for the second consecutive season with a 24-23 loss to Northwestern.
Benny Snell’s first half ejection was the beginning of the chaos. Fifteen-yard penalties flew frequently and injuries abounded. Stephen Johnson was forced out of the game on two separate occasions. Despite it all, Kentucky still had a chance to win the ball game.
Trailing by ten at half, Johnson returned from an injury to rush for a touchdown and cap off a six-play, 74-yard scoring drive at the start of the second half. Following a goal line stand, Johnson had a chance to work another comeback miracle, only to throw a pick six two plays later.
Even though they were down by ten with less than eight minutes to play, Kentucky did not quit. Johnson got the Cats close enough for Austin MacGinnis to drill a 48-yard field goal and cut the lead to seven. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.
Kentucky’s defense made a stand and stopped Northwestern on fourth and one. The Cats drove 40 yards in less than two minutes. It all came down to one play after Johnson’s nine-yard touchdown run. Mark Stoops made the right move to go for two, but the pass was just out of Tavin Richardson’s reach.
It was so close, so painfully close to a Music City Miracle.
The Cats could’ve easily thrown in the towel when the ish hit the fan. Instead of replicating another Louisville-like performance, they laid it all out on the field. Kentucky came up short, but their persistence deserves praise.
By Nick Roush on ©December 29th, 2017 @ 6:57pm
The call that will define Kentucky’s 2017 Music City Bowl shook the Twitter world, and it wasn’t just UK fans. Every person watching college football could not believe the official decided to toss Benny Snell out of the game. Here were the best responses:
OK, football gods. Whatever we did to upset you, we're really, really sorry. Truce?
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) December 29, 2017
Oooof. Terrible call to eject Bennie Snell. Sorry, @UKFootball
— Seth Meyers (@sethmeyers) December 29, 2017
Lesson learned for Benny Snell. If a ref offers you his hand, take it. If he offers you his hat? Take that too. If he offers you his kidney? Hope you have the same blood type kid
— Jessica Smetana (@jessica_smetana) December 29, 2017
By the end of this Music City Bowl, Chris Collins and John Calipari will get ejected, too.
— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) December 29, 2017
This game is like me in the 80â€™s ….a hot mess
— Tony Vanetti (@tonyvanetti) December 29, 2017
Benny Snell was just ejected from the game for this. Refusing a refs help up?!? Never seen anything like it pic.twitter.com/MX1rMaOglJ
— B1G Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) December 29, 2017
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 29th, 2017 @ 6:46pm
How about some good news from the Music City Bowl? Stephen Johnson has been cleared to play in the second half after leaving the game with an arm injury.
Kentucky’s starting quarterback went down hard on his right arm on this tackle out of bounds:
Stephen Johnson injures his right shoulder on this hit, that was not called for a late hit (pretty egregious takedown)
And Kentucky got an unsportsmanlike for complaining, apparently. This is awful. pic.twitter.com/vMaVWtAC9E
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) December 29, 2017
When the refs didn’t call the late hit, it appears Kendall Randolph said something about it, which earned Kentucky another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Here’s what it looks like. Stoops got the ref to come to where Johnson was laying and #5 Kendall Randolph (Sr CB) said something to the official. Looks like the official wagged his finger at him and then threw the flag. @MrsTylerKSR @KySportsRadio pic.twitter.com/a0k7ilkDQJ
– David Scott (@Finna_Go_HAM) December 29, 2017
On Johnson’s way to the locker room, he shared some choice words with a referee:
– David Scott (@Finna_Go_HAM) December 29, 2017
Stephen Johnson likes horse…something. pic.twitter.com/y7Cp3Cp0oJ
– Connor O’Gara (@cjogara) December 29, 2017
At halftime, Stoops voiced his displeasure as well:
Kentucky heads to the locker room down 17-7. Stoops NOT happy with the officials. pic.twitter.com/rpHtL7fhVH
— Jonathan Dunn (@jdunnlex18) December 29, 2017
Can you blame them? So, if you’re counting at home, the following players are now out due:
- Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson (knee)
- Kentucky RB Benny Snell (BS ejection)
- Northwestern LB Paddy Fisher (ejection)
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times: Stephen Johnson is one tough dude.
Well that was weird. At this point, nothing really matters. The game has turned into a side show.
Benny Snell and Northwestern’s Paddy Fisher were ejected. Both quarterbacks are injured. Our pets heads are falling off. Here are the stats, if you still care.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 29th, 2017 @ 5:55pm
Benny Snell just got throw out of the Music City Bowl for “contact with an official,” which, if you know Benny, sounds ridiculous enough, but when you look at the replay, it’s absolutely absurd.
After Benny was tackled (with a few late hits that weren’t called), the ref reached down to help him up and Benny pushed his hands away. Apparently, that’s enough to get you thrown out of a bowl game.
A closer look:
This is why Benny Snell was ejected. pic.twitter.com/QVFczR8anz
– Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) December 29, 2017
Snell walking through the tunnel to the locker room:
Benny Snell ejected pic.twitter.com/13KACTh3bL
– Jonathan Dunn (@jdunnlex18) December 29, 2017