UK Football

Was ejection from Music City Bowl ‘a blessing in disguise’ for Kentucky’s Benny Snell?

Stoops reacts to Snell’s ejection, final play call

Head coach Mark Stoops answers questions on the attempt at a two-point conversion and the referee's decision to eject Benny Snell Jr. from the Music City Bowl game at Nissan Stadium.
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Head coach Mark Stoops answers questions on the attempt at a two-point conversion and the referee's decision to eject Benny Snell Jr. from the Music City Bowl game at Nissan Stadium.

There is no player on the Kentucky roster more excited for the first snaps of a new season than Benny Snell.

“They tried to take me away for a little bit,” the junior running back said last week during UK’s turn at Southeastern Conference Media Days in Atlanta. “But I’m gonna come back stronger, harder and I’m way smarter than I was last year.”

In all of his years of playing football, Snell had never been tossed from a game. So when official Chris Coyte threw the unsportsmanlike conduct flag that ended the UK running back’s Music City Bowl game, Snell was in shock.

No amount of boos or stern letters from Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart will bring back those lost runs for Snell.

“I’m sure that’s motivated him all summer to get back on the field,” tight end C.J. Conrad said. “No one wants to end their last game not even playing in the bowl game.”

Snell hasn’t watched the play and subsequent ejection in “a long time.”

The entire situation was frustrating for all involved.

“It sucks for Benny because it may have been a different outcome in the game if he plays the whole game,” Conrad said.

Northwestern defeated Kentucky 24-23. Snell carried only six times for 15 yards and scored a touchdown before the ejection early in the second quarter.

Those lost snaps could have been the difference between a win and loss for Kentucky. They could’ve gotten Snell a few steps closer to breaking the Cats’ all-time rushing record. The 5-foot-11, 223-pound junior needs 1,412 yards to best Sonny Collins’ 3,835 career yards.

So many might-have-beens linger from that Nashville night.

“It is what it is,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said. “That situation is over. You learn from every experience whether it’s positive or negative. … You learn from every opportunity.”

Kentucky’s players are trying to make the ejection an educational endeavor.

Kentucky's Benny Snell Jr. responds to questions about his ejection at the Music City Bowl game at Nissan Stadium.

“My reaction is I took it as a learning experience,” Snell said. “I’ve never encountered something like that. It’s in the past.”

What exactly did Snell learn? “Don’t touch a referee.”

But did he actually touch Coyte? It appeared Snell was out of bounds before being tackled by several Northwestern players. Coyte looked as if he was offering to help Snell up, and Snell appeared to refuse the assist. Coyte then ejected Snell for making contact with an official.

“I really don’t know,” Snell said. “I learned to just stay away from them and play football.”

As he starts this season chasing down Kentucky running backs from the past, Snell is finished worrying about what happened in the Music City Bowl.

Snell is doing his best to seek out the positive. “It was a blessing in disguise, me being kicked out. More people know who I am now because of that.”

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