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.