Georgia Tech running back Nate Cottrell, right, is tackled by Kentucky cornerback J.D. Harmon (11) on a kick return during the second half of the TaxSlayer Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016, in Jacksonville, Fla. Georgia Tech beat Kentucky 33-18. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Plenty of tussling between Georgia Tech, Kentucky

Tech was penalized a season-high nine times for 84 yards, both season highs. The flags included three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. There were multiple instances of scuffles after the whistle, including one on the opening kickoff of the second half in which unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on both teams offset each other. The Jackets won the bowl game 33-18.

“We did some dumb stuff,” coach Paul Johnson said. “The one right at the kickoff to start the second half, we would have got a 15-yard penalty on the guy. We’ve got to hold our composure better than that.”

In the second quarter, Tech linebacker blocked Grant McKinnis’ punt, and after the play was over, Tech and Kentucky players scuffled, apparently prompted by an aggressive block thrown by Tech’s J.J. Green just before the whistle on Kentucky’s Greg Hart that knocked him to the ground. Players from both teams joined the scrum, right in front of the Tech bench, including several players coming off the Jackets sideline. Tech was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

In the third quarter, when Tech punter Ryan Rodwell had his punt blocked, Kentucky’s Kash Daniel was flagged for piling on.

“We’re 21-, 22-year-old men,” defensive tackle Patrick Gamble said. “You get to pushing and shoving. There’s always going to be some talking.”

Both sides were also frustrated with the officiating of the game by the Big 12 crew, which did not help matters. Johnson said he got on his team at halftime for arguing with officials.

“When I say ‘our guys,’ I’m the lead culprit,” he said. “I didn’t want anybody saying anything to the officials in the second half. It just doesn’t do any good.”

Tech wide receiver Ricky Jeune had an idea that its matchup with Kentucky might be a little more feisty than usual when players from both sides exchanged in some trash talking at a luncheon Friday.

“It was just a little trash talk, just competitive stuff,” Jeune said.

Tech entered the game one of the least penalized teams in the country. The Jackets were seventh nationally with 4.1 penalties per game. The last time they had as many as nine penalties or 84 penalty yards was the 2013 season.

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