Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 9, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 3 of 55

4 OCT. 9, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED N otre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is right when he insists that something is not right with the way target- ing penalties have been called for and against his football team the last several years. Since the NCAA added the targeting penalty in 2013, Notre Dame has been hit with seven of these infractions. The total targeting penalties for its opponents during those 55 games is one. Coincidence? Probably. Concern? Absolutely. Before we get too far, a tar- geting penalty is defined two ways. 1 ) W h e n a d e f e n s e l e s s player is struck in the head or neck area. 2) When a defensive player initiates contact anywhere on an opponent's body with the crown (top) of his helmet. If a targeting call is not made on the field and there is evidence of a pos- sible infraction, replay officials have the responsibility to immediately re- view the play and make a ruling. If a player is penalized for targeting, he is immediately ejected from the game. The Michigan State game Sept. 23 was the latest example of an Irish op- ponent getting away with textbook targeting. MSU linebacker Joe Bachie tack- led junior Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush cleanly. But while Wimbush was lying face down on the turf, late-arriving Spartans linebacker Chris Frey left his feet and performed essentially a headfirst swan dive that ended in helmet-to-helmet contact with the defenseless Irish QB. No flag, no penalty, no replay was forthcoming, but a strong reaction was. "It was egregious," Kelly said. "And there's no other way to look at that kind of hit. That has no place in the game." Kelly had the video of the play and his complaint turned into the of- fices of the ACC and the Big Ten for further evaluation, an explanation, and perhaps some retribution for the crews from these two leagues that worked the game. A couple of days later, both the ACC and Big Ten con- firmed to Kelly the call "was clearly missed." The Michigan State incident was reminiscent of a play against Texas last season when Irish wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. was knocked out al- most two minutes after a helmet-to- helmet hit in the end zone. (Report- edly, six of the ACC officials there also handled this year's Michigan State game.) Upon video review of the play, those Big 12 officials were eventually reprimanded months later for a lack of action — but big deal. Notre Dame players have been called for at least one targeting pen- alty in each of the four full seasons the rule has been in place from 2013- 16, including two last season with de- fensive backs Devin Studstill versus Syracuse and Nicco Fertitta against USC on a couple of tackles that were squeaky clean compared to the dirty hits on Wimbush and Hunter. The others were: Ben Councell (Oklahoma) and Stephon Tuitt (Pitts- burgh) in 2013; Max Redfield (Pur- due) and Nyles Morgan (Louisville) in 2014; and Elijah Shumate (Temple) in 2015. In real time and at full speed, these calls are difficult to make on the field — they are subjective and open to rule interpretation. But it's that lack of consis- tency and understanding that fuels Kelly's angst. "It just needs to be fixed," he said, staying clear of immedi- ate suggestions on how. "Right now, it's not in a very good place and needs to get fixed." In no small part because of the high number of targeting calls against Notre Dame, the four NCAA independent teams average 0.27 ejections per game since 2013, or more than any of the 10 college football con- ferences. There is no team-by- team targeting data available. The Southeastern Confer- ence is a close second with 0.25 average targeting ejections per game. No other football league is even in the ballpark, all run- ning fewer than 0.20 per game. Ironically, targeting calls have been on the steady increase since the rule was adopted — just not when it comes to Notre Dame opponents. The lone opposing player to earn a targeting call and ejection against Notre Dame was Ohio State All- American defensive end Joey Bosa af- ter a late hit on Irish quarterback De- Shone Kizer in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. As officials become more comfort- able making these game-changing targeting calls, the "fix" Kelly speaks of might not be a long time coming. In fact, through the first three weeks of this season compared to the same point in 2016, a study by the Associated Press shows a 73 percent increase in the number of targeting penalties enforced. The data might suggest that the disparity of seven Notre Dame targeting calls to one for its opponents is beyond coincidence. But conspiracy or not, at least Kelly is speaking out that if you're going to continue to make more targeting calls against his team, it's time to make the obvious targeting calls against the op- posing team. ✦ Are NCAA Officials Targeting Notre Dame? UPON FURTHER REVIEW TODD D. BURLAGE Todd D. Burlage has been a writer for Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 2005. He can be reached at After watching officials miss another targeting call against his team at Michigan State Sept. 23, head coach Brian Kelly said the rule "needs to be fixed" because it is too subjective and open to interpretation. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct. 9, 2017