Targeting Rule Appropriate, but Too Harsh
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 16:09
Bryan Shepherd was coming in hot when a Ferris State receiver caught the ball across the middle in last Saturday’s game at the Fargodome. The NDSU strong safety collided with the receiver as he turned to run up field. The big hit drew ohhs and ahhs from the crowd and then some boos when a penalty flag came flying in.
Those boos got significantly louder two minutes later. Why? Because Shepherd got ejected from the game for his hit.
The NCAA began a new “targeting” rule this year in football. The rule warrants against these big hits that safeties and linebackers land on receivers. Launching toward an opponent, an upward or forward thrust with contact at the head or neck area, leading with the helmet or arm and lowering the head before attacking and initiating with the crown of the helmet are all grounds for an ejection.
Wait, really? An ejection?
I’m all about player safety. It seems every huge hit is getting flagged in today’s game. Fans are just going to have to accept that. But tossing a player out of the game is way too harsh.
These plays happen in a split second. As a safety, you are reading the quarterback’s eyes. As soon as he lets the ball out, you are flying toward it. Passes up the middle then involve two players sprinting full speed to the same spot. Does the NCAA really expect these safeties to take the time to slow down and think about the proper way to hit someone?
Yes, players are being coached to keep their helmets up. But football is a fast game and in a split second, the safety’s only concern is to get the guy down before he jukes for more yardage.
With player safety becoming a national issue for all levels of football, these vicious hits are usually resulted in 15-yard penalties. I’m not going to argue against the personal foul. Typically it’s the right call.
But to eject a player for a play that happens so fast that the defender barely has time to decipher how to bring the guy down is too far. And since these collisions happen so suddenly and fast, the NCAA tells the refs if it’s a close call, when in doubt, just toss the player out of the game.
To the human eye and how the game is being officiated today, these midfield hits always seem worthy of a flag. But now, NCAA refs need to decide whether these hits deserve a 15-yarder or an ejection. When it’s pass, catch, hit, all in a matter of seconds, how good is the official’s judgment?
Instant replay of Shepherd’s hit showed his helmet was safely on the side of the receiver, but he was coming in full speed and looked like he somewhat launched at the receiver because he extended his arms. While all the fans had a chance to watch the replay, the refs could do nothing to change their decision, because it is final.
And that might be the last tipping point on how absurd this rule is. Refs need to be able to review the hit if they are on the fence of drastically ejecting a player.
Shepherd’s hit was in the first half. If it would have occurred in the second half, he would have had to sit out the first half against Delaware State next week.
All for something that happened too quickly for the human eye to process. Yes, we need a safer game. But let’s tone down on the punishments, NCAA.