On three separate occasions last night I witnessed three different outcomes to the newly applied targeting rule. Under the new targeting rule, any time a referee perceives a player going after the head of another, it is an automatic personal foul flag and an automatic ejection. The play immediately goes to review to be certain that the play was indeed targeting. If the review confirms targeting, the flag and the ejection are upheld. If the review overturns the call, the ejection is overturned, but the review still stands.
Here were the 3 different scenarios I witnessed:
Nebraska at Purdue
In my admittedly biased interpretation, I see defender Stanley Jean-Baptiste leading with the shoulder and driving into the chest of the receiver. However, because the hit was so explosive, the referees immediately threw the flag and declared targeting. The review showed that there was marginal contact between helmets (it’s football), so by the wording of the rule the ejection must be upheld. I know Jean-Baptiste personally and know that he is not a dirty player. He is one of the quietest kids you’d ever meet. It is simply wording of the rule (in review, any helmet contact) that caused the upholding of the ejection.
Nebraska is familiar with wording of rules screwing over actual play. Last basketball season Brandon Ubel was being heavily guarded by two Penn State players and barely touched the nose of one while trying to pass the ball away. They reviewed the play, refs saw that the contact would barely scratch an itch, but declared a flagrant 1 because of the wording of the rule, instead of interpreting the rule for its intent.
In the second situation that I witnessed, Ole Miss was taking on, and leading, #9 Texas A & M. Late in the game, Texas A & M’s Johnny Manziel waited a little too long to get rid of the ball and was hit as he threw it. Incomplete pass bringing up (I believe it was) 2nd and Ten from about the 20. Referees throw a flag because the defender targeted the head. Refs eject, go to review. After review, they declare that it was not targeting, and that the player shall not be disqualified from the game. So, 2nd and 10 from the 20 right? Nope, the penalty still stands, because you can’t review a penalty (even though that’s literally what they just did), so it’s first and goal. Texas A & M scores on the very next play, and ends up winning the game. I’ll bet there are some sour Ole Miss fans out there Sunday morning.
In the final situation, late in the North Texas-Middle Tennessee State match up, the MTSU quarterback was scrambling down field and was hit hard enough for his helmet to fly off. He was hurt on the play, and a flag came in from literally the farthest referee from the play (I was there I know which ref threw the flag). My problem with this play is that the QB got hurt due to his own ineptitude. Your helmet should never pop off that easily. If it does it means that it is not strapped on right, and it is your own fault if you sustain a head injury from improperly used equipment. The referees debated for about 5 minutes in a small huddle. After this, they declared there on the spot that there was no foul for targeting. I stood up and cheered for the refs on that one. This season especially, it takes serious knowledge of the game and situation to wave off a flag.
So, Big Ten referees make a bad call. SEC referees make a bad call. Conference USA has the highest quality referees out there? Something is wrong here…
Compare all these potential ejection situations with the actions of Texas’ Mike Davis last week against Iowa State.
Because he targeted the knees, he got a talking-to almost as stern as Oregon’s slap on the wrist. I’ve seen seasons and careers end on blown knees, but going after the knees after the play is over is still OK. God forbid you try to make a proper tackle at game speed during live play. The NCAA is targeting the wrong players.