NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It took more than half a season before Georgia felt the impact of the new targeting penalty in college football.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt argues with head linesman Gary Jayroe, left, in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt upset No. 15 Georgia 31-27.
Then the Bulldogs really felt it.
Team sack leader Ray Drew received an automatic ejection for a second-quarter targeting penalty that appeared to be questionable.
Then inside linebacker Ramik Wilson drew a late flag in the fourth quarter for targeting that was overturned on replay, but, as the rule states, the 15 yards were still assessed.
Vanderbilt’s fourth-and-4 pass to Jonathan Krause was incomplete on the play and instead of turning the ball over on downs, the penalty gave the Commodores the ball at the Georgia 15 They soon after scored on a 2-yard run.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t say anything horrendous about the officiating today, so I’m not going to do that,” coach Mark Richt said when asked about the call on Wilson.
Safety Corey Moore didn’t hold back.
“That was a messed up call,” safety Corey Moore said. “You could clearly see his helmet, he didn’t target the dude. He made a correct tackle. That just really upset me. That was a big part of the game because it gave them field position to score. … They did score, and that was pretty big. That was just one penalty that hurt us that shouldn’t even have been a penalty.”
Drew was flagged for hitting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels on a 7-yard completion.
Depending on your perspective, Drew hit him with his chest and arms or the shoulder.
“Ejection of Georgia player has to be reversed,” tweeted Mike Pereira of Fox Sports, former NFL vice president of officiating.
Asked for an explanation of the Drew call, the Southeastern Conference released a statement during the game that stated Rule 9-1-4: “No player shall target and initiate CONTACT TO THE HEAD OR NECK area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow OR SHOULDER. …”
Replay official Mike McGinnis didn’t overturn the call.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn’t make an issue of the first call after the game, but said of the Wilson penalty: “Obviously it gave them a first down, so that’s a big one and it gave them a touchdown later on. I’ll save my judgment on that thing until I see it on tape for sure. I’ll leave it for Coach Richt and let him answer that question.”
The targeting penalty added an ejection from the game this season to enhance player safety.
“I’m not trying to say much, but that whole call is a BS call to me,” Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “The rule in general is BS. I think it ruins the game. I think it’s going to ruin the game of football.”
Added Richt: “It’s very difficult to know exactly where the guy’s going to be by the time you strike him. It’s hard for defenders to really do it within the rules. Even if they have the right spirit about it, which I know our guys do.”