Four targeting penalties irrevocably impacted three SEC games over the weekend, leaving many to wonder if the biggest part of the rule should be tossed.
The four calls left three players – Florida S Cody Riggs, Georgia DE Ray Drew and South Carolina S Kadetrix Marcus – ejected from their games. A targeting penalty called against Georgia LB Ramik Wilson got overturned in instant replay. The call played a big role in Vanderbilt’s 31-27 comeback win, though.
With the entire sport of football focusing more on player safety, the targeting rule probably isn’t going anywhere. However, coaches have started to wonder aloud if the punishment fits the crime.
Florida coach Will Muschamp saw Riggs get ejected on the first offensive play of the game. The Gators safety did hit Missouri WR L’Damian Washington helmet to helmet, but Washington caught the ball high on his pads, close to the facemask. Riggs appeared to avoid a huge collision, but couldn’t avoid hitting Washington in the head.
Riggs was flagged for the 15-yard personal foul and ejected. Missouri threw for a touchdown on the next play, claiming the early lead on its way to a 36-17 victory.
Afterward, Muschamp made his stance on the first-year rule clear.
“I don’t disagree with the call,” Muschamp said. “I disagree with kicking a kid out of the game in that situation. He wasn’t maliciously trying to hurt anybody. Ridiculous.”
For the record, penalties against Marcus and Drew also appeared to be correct based on the new rule. Marcus’ hit left no doubt.
Drew’s shot on Vanderbilt QB Austyn Carta-Samuels warranted more debate on the ejection front. As Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out, Drew would have been flagged for roughing the passer on the play in any year. However, his hit didn’t appear malicious and perhaps served as overkill.
That play paled in comparison to the blown call on Wilson when he hit WR Jonathan Krause shoulder-to-shoulder. Wilson’s hit came on a fourth-and-4 for Vanderbilt, which trailed by 13 at the time. Wilson broke up the pass to Krause with a clean hit that jarred the ball loose. However, the targeting rule gave the Commodores 15 yards and an automatic first down despite Wilson’s ejection getting overturned.
Vanderbilt went on to score on the drive and, ultimately, knock off the Bulldogs.
“I’m sure a lot of people would say if you’re reviewing it, why don’t you go ahead and change the penalty if it were called incorrectly,” Richt said after the game. “And maybe you could just have it in that one case – we’re talking about a safety rule – that might make sense. But I can understand why they didn’t want to do it because they didn’t want to open Pandora’s Box on that. Because if you review that, then why don’t you review pass interference, why don’t you review all kinds of stuff like that. It would take too much time.
“But since they’re reviewing it anyway, it might be one they might make an exception for in the future.”
The biggest fear entering the season surrounded referees having too much authority to tremendously alter the course of games.
So far those fears have been realized – especially this week in the SEC.