Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky’s leading rusher, got ejected from Friday’s Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl after being flagged for making contact with an official.
After running for a 7-yard loss early in the second quarter, Snell was on the ground after the swarming tackle. Head official Chris Coyte from the Pac-12 stood over Snell and appeared to reach down toward him. Snell pushed his hands away and quickly turned up field. Coyte immediately reached for his flag and announced an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on Snell and disqualification from the game.
“That changes everything,” ESPN play-by-play commentator Taylor Zarzour said after the ejection was announced.
The ejection stunned ESPN analyst Andre Ware, as well.
“C’mon, c’mon. … It’s like Chris Coyte wanted to help him up and Benny Snell didn’t want the help and then he throws the flag and kicks the kid out of the game,” Ware said in looking at the replay. “Are you kidding me?
Kentucky drove down field on its opening drive and Snell scored the game’s first touchdown. When he was ejected, he had six carries for 15 yards.
Snell led the SEC in rushing TDs (18) and rushing yards (1,318) and ranked second in rushing yards per game (109.8) this season. His 1,318 rushing yards set a school record for most rushing yards by a sophomore. He also became the first player in school history to record 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.
On the previous series, Northwestern starting quarterback Clayton Thorson was carted off with an apparent knee injury.
Later in the half, Kentucky lost its starting quarterback, Stephen Johnson, to an injury. Johnson left the field during the final minute of the first half. No word was give on whether he would return to the game.
Northwestern led Kentucky 17-7 late in the half.