Any conversation about college football these days inevitably winds its way to “The Hit,” the tackle made by USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl, where Clowney separated Smith from the football and his helmet.
“The Hit” was a hot topic at conference media days across the country this summer because of updated rules. The NCAA is attempting to eliminate defenders from targeting ball carriers with helmet-first hits.
So when ABC broadcasters Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit held a conference call Tuesday with media members nationally, they weighed in on whether Clowney’s play should now be classified as illegal.
“I was a little distressed to read that the great hit of the ballgame by Clowney might have been a penalty that might have resulted in an ejection,” Musburger said. “But I’m very happy to see that the ejection part of it can be reviewed by instant replay but not the penalty.”
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Herbstreit said the rules could end up being interpreted differently by officials in the various conferences, which might lead to controversy, but he believes a play like “The Hit” was legal because Clowney didn’t target Smith by leaving his feet or leading with his helmet.
“After they really reviewed it and talked about it, that was a clean hit,” Herbstreit said. “There was no intent there by Jadeveon Clowney.”