Music City Bowl Recap: UK falls to Northwestern; Snell ejected


The Music City Bowl was full of controversy, injuries and ejections. In the end, Kentucky fell one point short after Stoops decided to go for a two-point conversion late.

The Music City Bowl was marred by controversy and horrendous officiating. Benny Snell and Paddy Fisher were both ejected. In the end Kentucky scored a touchdown with 37 seconds left and decided to go for a two-point conversion in order to win the game outright. UK fell just short and lost to Northwestern 24-23. Stephen Johnson finished his UK career with 257 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns.

First Quarter

Kentucky received the opening kickoff of the 2017 Music City Bowl and drove right the field in 5 plays to put a touchdown on the board in less than 3 minutes. Stephen Johnson hit Tavin Richardson on two huge play-action passes. Benny Snell then took it into the end zone from 3 yards out to give the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead.

Northwestern’s first two possessions resulted in two consecutive three-and-outs. Derrick Baity made a great play on a pass downfield and Josh Pascal sacked Clayton Thorson during Northwestern’s second series. Pascal replaced the suspended defensive lineman Denzil Ware in the starting lineup. Kentucky was unable to capitalize on two empty possessions from Northwestern. Kayaune Ross was unable to haul a sideline pass and Richardson allowed a third-down pass to bounce off his shoulder pads.

Northwestern got on the board late in the first period. Jeremy Larkin busted through the Kentucky front seven and gained 28 yards on a first-down run. The Northwestern drive stalled in red zone and Northwestern settled for a Charlie Kuhbander field goal. At the end of the first quarter Kentucky led Northwestern 7-3.

2nd Quarter

The start of the second quarter was a mixed bag for Northwestern. A halfback from Larkin to Thorson gained 24 yards, however, Thorson injured his right knee on the play and did not return. Running back Justin Jackson pounded the ball into the end zone from 5 yards out to give Northwestern a 10-7 lead.

On Kentucky’s ensuing possession, on what can only be described as a horrendous call, Benny Snell was ejected for making contact with an official. The official missed a potential late-hit by Northwestern and offered to help Snell to his feet. Snell rejected the official’s gesture and was flagged for moving the official’s hands away.

On UK’s next possession, Montre Hartage picked off Johnson after his pass ricocheted off the hands of Ross and into the hands of . Northwestern turned the interception into points when Jackson scored from 2 yards out, growing Northwestern’s lead to 10.

‘Juice’ Johnson got into the mix on UK’s next possession. The senior wide out caught a 25-yard pass from Johnson. The drive then stalled and after a questionable late hit by Joe Gaziano received no flag from the officials, the Kentucky sideline received a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalty took UK out of field goal range. Johnson was injured on the late hit and was replaced by Drew Barker. Northwestern took the 17-7 lead into the locker room.

Third Quarter

Northwestern got the ball to start the second half of the Music City Bowl. Backup quarterback Matt Alviti took over for the injured Thorson under center. Northwestern failed to convert on fourth down and Kentucky took over. Stephen Johnson returned in the second half and dropped a dime to the senior wide receiver Ross. Ross’ catch setup the Cats inside the 20 yard line and another catch by Richardson set up Kentucky with first-and-goal at the 3 yard line. Stephen Johnson took the quarterback keeper around the right side and squeezed his body inside the pylon for the touchdown. Austin MacGinnis added the extra point to bring the Cats within a field goal.

Northwestern missed a field goal late in the third quarter as Charlie Kuhbander was wide right from 43 yards out.

Fourth Quarter

The fourth quarter of the Music City Bowl began with dueling punts. Both Kentucky and Northwestern had their drives stall early in the quarter. On Kentucky’s second possession of the quarter, ‘Juice’ Johnson made a tremendous first-down catch. UK’s drive stalled at once again and Kentucky kicked the ball away.

A 64-yard rush by Larkin put Northwestern on the doorstep of Kentucky’s end zone, but a botched trick play resulted in Kentucky taking over on downs again. However, an ill-timed throw by Johnson resulted in a pick-six for Northwestern. UK’s deficit grew once more to 10.

Stephen Johnson led his Wildcats right back down the field and MacGinnis knocked through a 48 yard field goal. Kentucky then stopped Northwestern on fourth down yet again and took possession at their own 39 yard line.

Johnson drove the Cats down the field and on first-and-goal, ran it in for a touchdown. Mark Stoops decided to roll the dice and go for the two-point conversion to go up by one. Unfortunately, Johnson’s pass missed Richardson and the score remained 24-23.