Kentucky’s athletic director took to social media on Wednesday to praise running back Benny Snell and offer that the sophomore “was not deserving of an ejection” in the Music City Bowl last week in Nashville.
“Much has been made of the ejection of Benny Snell last week,” Barnhart tweeted in a thread. “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 was unfortunate our fans didn’t get to see one of the best running backs in the country play against an excellent Northwestern team.”
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Head referee Chris Coyte ejected Snell in the second quarter of the game against No. 20 Northwestern for what he said was contact with an official. Replays showed that Coyte was attempting to help Snell up after he was tackled for loss.
Snell was frustrated after the play and appeared to rebuff Coyte’s assistance, which led the referee to throw a penalty flag and eject the sophomore from the game.
Later to a designated pool reporter, Coyte said: “I was on top of the play. And the player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away and contacted me. That’s a foul.”
After the game, Snell met with reporters and said he didn’t think he did or said anything inappropriate.
“I’ve got a very strong passion for the game,” he said repeatedly. I don’t feel like I did anything. I don’t need help getting up.”
On Twitter, UK’s athletics director praised UK for its “preparation for the bowl game” and its “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.”
Snell finished the season as UK’s leading rusher with 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns on 262 carries. He also caught 10 passes for 72 yards for the Cats, who finished the season 7-6 with a 24-23 loss in the Music City Bowl.