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Mike Pereira breaks down the big calls
That's the sound an arrow makes when it hits a target. It's also the sound heard 'round the college football world as the first weekend got underway.
Now, because of the offseason change to make the targeting penalty an automatic ejection, the bull's-eye will clearly shift to the NCAA after several targeting calls were made.
I had great reservations when I heard about this change. The two things I was most concerned about — the consistency of the calls and severity of an ejection if, in fact, it wasn't merited — both came into play on Saturday in the Rice-Texas A&M and Nicholls State-Oregon games (see more detail on plays below).
The targeting rule is as follows:
• No player shall target and initiate contact vs. opponent with the crown of his helmet.
• No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent.
The automatic ejection is the new part. A 15-yard penalty is one thing, an ejection is huge, especially if it happens in the second half of a game — because it carries over to the first half of the next game.
That's what happened to A&M defensive back Deshazor Everett. He will now have to sit out the first half of next week's game against Sam Houston State.
Coaches are not allowed to challenge the targeting penalty, but they are allowed to challenge whether replay can reverse the ejection. The ironic part of that is, if replay has clear, indisputable evidence that it should not have been an ejection, it is basically saying that it's not a foul. But replay can't reverse the call. They can only reverse the ejection.
If anything, the opening week proved to me that this new enforcement misses the target. In my opinion, I would have left the enforcement the way it was — a 15-yard personal foul. Period.
I think the NCAA may have opened a can of worms on this one. And you know how bad worms can smell . . .
THE GAME: Rice at Texas A&M
THE SITUATION: Rice had the ball, third-and-12 at the Texas A&M 34-yard line with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M led 52-28.
THE PLAY: Rice quarterback Dirphus Jackson rolled to his right and attempted a pass to Klein Kubiak that was broken up by Deshazor Everett on a hard hit. A personal foul was called on the play and Everett was ejected for targeting. See it here at the 1:08 mark . . .
MY TAKE: There's now a target on the new targeting penalty. What we have here is a hit that was probably late, but to me does not fit the category of targeting. When you target an opponent, you attack a defenseless receiver by making contact with your helmet, shoulder or forearm to his head or neck area. It's also a targeting foul if a player initiates contact with the crown of his helmet. In this case, it seems to be that neither of those things happened.
I'm also concerned about the process. If a targeting foul is called with the required ejection, replay is to review it if there is any question as to whether or not it is targeting. That didn't happen. Instead the referee appeared to be talking to someone other than the officials on the field before even making the penalty announcement. This forced Texas A&M to challenge the ejection, which they are allowed to do. Eventually, it appeared, the ejection was upheld. Now Everett has to sit out for the first half of next week's game against Sam Houston State.
It's only my opinion, but the new targeting penalty is now going to be the target of much criticism.
THE GAME: Nicholls State at Oregon
THE SITUATION: Nicholls State had the ball, second-and-5 at the Oregon 27-yard line with 1:25 left in the first quarter. Oregon led 24-0.
THE PLAY: Nicholls State QB Beaux Hebert scrambled out of the pocket and rushed the ball for no gain, getting hit on the play by Terrance Mitchell. A personal foul was called and Mitchell was ejected for targeting. Hebert left the game with an apparent head injury.
MY TAKE: This was definitely targeting. Herbert was on the ground and Mitchell led with his helmet and shoulder and hit him in the head. That is an act that the NCAA rule book quotes as "taking aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with an apparent intent that goes beyond making a legal tackle."
In this case, the foul was in the first half so Mitchell won't have to sit out any additional time in Oregon's next game.
THE SITUATION: North Carolina had the ball, fourth-and-9 at the UNC 9-yard line with 5:18 left in the second quarter.
THE PLAY: Tommy Hibbard punted the ball 33 yards and it was returned by Victor Hampton for no gain to the South Carolina 48. North Carolina's Brandon Ellerbe made the tackle and wasn't flagged on the play.
MY TAKE: To me, it fits the category of both defenseless player and targeting. Let's start with the defenseless player, Hampton. The NCAA rule book says that a player is defenseless is if he is "on the ground." It also fits the definition of targeting in the rule book, because Ellerbe took aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with an apparent attempt that goes beyond a legal tackle.
This is my concern with the new penalty: This wasn't called and therefore, Ellerbe was not ejected. However, I do think there will be calls made for less egregious hits, which will lead to a player getting ejected, with the ejection held up in replay. The real concern with this new penalty becomes how consistently it will be officiated.
Football rules guru Mike Pereira will give you his opinion on good, not so good and questionable calls every week during Saturday's college football games — updating throughout the day.
If you have a question on a particular play, tweet the game, quarter, time and play to @mikepereira.