NASHVILLE, Tenn.— Jordan Jenkins’ thoughts on the NCAA’s targeting rule are pretty simple.
“I think it ruins the game. I think it’s going to ruin the game of football,” said the sophomore outside linebacker following No. 15 Georgia’s (4-3, 3-2 SEC) 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt (4-3, 1-3).
The targeting rule has been something strongly debated around college football this season, and Georgia experienced its devastation first hand in Nashville.
The targeting rule reads, "No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hands, fist, elbow or shoulder. By rule when in question, it is a foul."
A targeting penalty results in an automatic ejection of the player who committed the foul, but the ejection can be overturned if a replay official has indisputable video evidence that there was no such contact.
Georgia junior defensive end Ray Drew, the team’s sack leader (five), was ejected from Saturday’s contest in the first quarter following a hit on Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels that resulted in a targeting penalty.
From the replay it looked as if Drew hit Carta-Samuels high, but merely pushed him with his hands. The play stood as it was called and created tremendous buzz on Twitter as some well-known media members expressed their opinions.
“Ejection of Georgia player has to be reversed!” said FOX Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira on Twitter.
“That is the worst one [targeting call] I’ve seen,” ESPN’s Mark Schlabach tweeted following Drew’s ejection.
But that wasn’t Georgia’s last run in with the targeting call.
In the fourth quarter, junior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson was flagged for a targeting penalty when he hit Vanderbilt wide receiver Jonathan Krause with his shoulder as he came across the middle for a catch, ultimately dislodging the ball on a fourth-and-4 play.
“That was a messed up call man,” junior strong safety Corey Moore said. “You can clearly see his helmet. He didn’t target the dude, he made a correct tackle and that just really upset me because that was a big part of the game that gave them field position to score. That was pretty big. That was just one penalty that hurt us that shouldn’t have.”
The ejection was eventually overturned, but the penalty stood giving the Commodores a first down on what would have been a turnover on downs.
“The targeting rule is if he gets called for targeting than he gets kicked out. Well if he stays in the game then that means it wasn’t a target,” junior cornerback Damian Swann said. “If he’s not thrown out for targeting then the penalty should be overturned, and it should be our ball.”
Georgia head coach Mark Richt wouldn’t comment on the Wilson play specifically saying, “I promised myself I wouldn’t say anything horrendous about the officiating crew,” but he did give some insight on the ruling of the call.
“I’m sure a lot of people would say if you do that why don’t you change the penalty if it was called incorrectly,” he said. “And maybe you could just have it in that one case, it might make sense. But I can understand why they don’t want to open up Pandora’s box on that because if you review that than why don’t you review pass interference or all kinds of stuff like that.”
The targeting penalty did not just affect Georgia on Saturday, but nationally there were three others calls that resulted in ejection by the end of the Georgia vs. Vanderbilt game in Florida’s Cody Riggs, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and South Carolina’s Kadetrix Marcus.
“I’m not trying to say much, but that whole call is a BS call to me,” Jenkins said.
The targeting call is one that the NCAA will likely review, and according to Moore, for good reason.
“It’s like an extra man for the offensive players I think,” he said. Sometimes your kind of timid as a tackler to hit the guy like you want to because there’s that rule. It’s a nagging rule and I think it needs to be changed.”