Kentucky Suffers Heartbreak In The Music City Bowl
“This is the strangest game I’ve ever seen.” That was the comment of UK radio analyst Jeff Piecoro during the game. He was 100 percent correct. For a school who has a history of weird games this ranks right near the top. From injuries to ejections to head scratching calls this had it all. Let’s take a look at how Kentucky Suffers Heartbreak In The Music City Bowl.
Injuries and Questionable Calls
Early in the first quarter Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was injured after being tackled on a trick play. He was taken off the field on a cart with a leg injury.
With Thorson out the Cats relied on Justin Jackson even more. The senior responded with 155 yards and two touchdowns. He was named MVP of the Music City Bowl. Jackson moved into the Top 10 all-time in rushing yards in college football history.
For the game Northwestern outrushed Kentucky 333-65. During the last three games of the season the Wildcat defense gave up over 1,000 yards on the ground.
Mark Stoops’ club jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on a touchdown run by Benny Snell. However Snell’s day was a short one as he was ejected after a bizarre play.
This is why Benny Snell was ejected. pic.twitter.com/QVFczR8anz
— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) December 29, 2017
Snell finished the game with only 15 yards on six carries and a score. To his credit official Chris Coyte released a statement after the game.
Music City Bowl referee Chris Coyte on Benny Snell ejection: "The player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away and contacted me. That’s a foul."
— Adam Sparks (@AdamSparks) December 30, 2017
This response even got reaction from national media who didn’t exactly buy Coyte’s explanation.
Referee should be banned. Lying, slandering player. And a moron who doesn’t realize there’s video. https://t.co/eYlMF31cmH
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) December 30, 2017
For a fanbase still angry over the John Higgins fiasco from the NCAA Elite Eight game against North Carolina this one may have been even worse. It appears to be another instance of an official wanting to make a spotlight for themselves. Honestly the players, fans and ESPN all deserved better than this.
My passion for this game is out the roof , I don’t need help getting up. I can do that on my own. #snellyeah
— MrSnell Ya Later?? (@benny_snell) December 30, 2017
Snell’s ejection seemed to totally rattle Kentucky and Northwestern seized the momentum. In rolling off 17 unanswered points they took a 17-7 lead to the half.
Just before the half another questionable call went against Kentucky. Johnson was hit late and reinjured his shoulder.
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
Not only was Northwestern not penalized but Stoops got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing. That penalty took them out if Austin MacGinnis’ field goal range. The three points proved to be costly.
A Furious Second Half Rally
Johnson returned in the second half and immediately led the Cats to a touchdown taking it in himself. However Johnson then threw a pick six to Kyle Quiero putting Northwestern up 24-14.
MacGinnis’ school record 22nd field goal on the season made it 24-17. On the next possession Pat Fitzgerald went for it on a fourth and one on their own 40. UK held getting the ball back with excellent field position with about two minutes to go.
Johnson ran for his second touchdown to make it a one point game. Rather than play for overtime Stoops went for it. Unfortunately it was not to be as Johnson’s pass to Tavin Richardson fell incomplete.
Northwestern recovered an odd onside kick and that was the ballgame. The Big 10 Wildcats finish 10-3 on the year. It is their second straight 10 win campaign. They also won back to back bowl games for the first time in school history.
Looking Ahead To 2018
Thorson announced he is returning for his senior season rather than declare for the NFL Draft. However the severity of his leg injury could have an affect on the beginning of next season.
In addition Northwestern has to replace Jackson. But they seem to be in good hands with Jeremy Larkin who added 112 yards in the bowl game.
On the other sideline Kentucky ends their season at 7-6 for a second straight year and second straight bowl loss. The program is light years ahead of where it was when Stoops took over. However the Cats are still looking for that breakthrough bowl win.
Ultimately the 2017 campaign goes down as one of missed opportunities. This was the third last minute loss leaving the big Blue Nation wondering what might have been.
It’s going to be an interesting off season for Kentucky. Item number one is finding Johnson’s replacement. In addition they have to replace leading receiver Garrett Johnson. They also have to replace the school’s all-time leading scorer in MacGinnis.
Painful as it was thank you for reliving how Kentucky Suffers Heartbreak In The Music City Bowl. As a reminder Last Word On College Football has you covered for every bowl game leading up to the National Championship.