Instant analysis from Kentucky’s 24-23 loss to Northwestern in the Music City Bowl on Friday:
How the game was won
Northwestern turned two Stephen Johnson interceptions into two touchdowns and Kentucky’s late rally fell an incomplete two-point conversion pass away from success.
1. Justin Jackson. Northwestern star senior running back looked exactly like what he is — one of the best running backs in Big Ten history.
2. Joe Gaziano. Northwestern defensive end made life miserable for UK quarterback Stephen Johnson with a sack, three quarterback hurries and two pass breakups.
3. Northwestern run defense. Controlled Kentucky at line of scrimmage (though purple Wildcats didn’t get full test with early exit of Benny Snell).
4. Mark Stoops’ two-point try. It didn’t turn out, but I liked UK going for two points and the win at the end of the game.
1. Referee Chris Coyte. Unless Benny Snell said something especially objectionable, the ejection of Kentucky’s star running back was unjust.
2. Kentucky run defense. Gashed (334 yards allowed) yet again.
3. UK turnovers. Kentucky is not good enough to overcome 14 points off turnovers against a team as sound as Northwestern.
0 and 2. Mark Stoops joins Hal Mumme as the only coaches in Kentucky history to have an 0-2 record in bowl games. Fran Curci is 1-0, Bear Bryant 3-1, Rich Brooks 3-1, Jerry Claiborne 1-1, Bill Curry 0-1, Joker Phillips 0-1, Mumme 0-2, Stoops 0-2.
For its fifth appearance in the Music City Bowl, Kentucky wore blue helmets, white jerseys with blue letters and numbers and blue pants. UK went 4-2 this season in blue helmets.
Kentucky (7-6, 4-4 SEC) will open the 2018 football season Sept. 1 against Central Michigan (8-5, 6-2 MAC) of the Mid-American Conference at Kroger Field.
Know your foe
1. Central Michigan ended its 2017 season with a 37-14 loss to Wyoming in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise on Dec. 22. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Coach John Bonamego’s Chippewas.
2. CMU has beaten a power five conference foe in each of the past two seasons. Central Michigan beat Kansas 45-27 in Lawrence this year after beating Oklahoma State 30-27 in Stillwater in 2016.
3. Kentucky leads the all-time series with Central Michigan 6-0. The teams have not met since UK beat CMU 27-14 in Lexington in 2011, Joker Phillips’ second season as Wildcats head coach.