Until Saturday, all the complaining about college football’s new targeting rule had been theoretical for South Carolina fans.
Then, in the second quarter of Saturday’s 28-25 win over UCF, Gamecocks safety Brison Williams was penalized 15 yards and ejected from the game. The play was reviewed, which is automatic under the new rule, and Williams was immediately re-inserted in the game when the replay showed he did not initiate contact with his helmet into the shoulder of Knights receiver Jeff Godfrey and that the players’ helmets never touched.
However, the 15-yard penalty is not reviewable. In this case, it turned a pass breakup by Williams into a first down for UCF at the South Carolina 28-yard line. The drive resulted in a 27-yard field goal.
“I was on my knees on that call (in shock). That stuff hurts me,” cornerback Victor Hampton said. “It’s like, ‘How can we play football?’ He is clearly throwing his shoulder. It’s putting us in a lose-lose situation. Do we let them catch the ball and then hit them? How are we supposed to play?”
Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said his players must adjust to the new reality but also called for a postseason review of the rule.
“It’s the nature of the game now. It’s all about protecting athletes, and I respect that, but I think at the end of the season they are going to have to re-evaluate how they are calling that,” he said. “You are going to have to start hitting people in their lower extremities, which is going to get people hurt.”
Williams made the play in exactly the way he is taught to make it, Ward said.
“If he doesn’t hit him high, the ball doesn’t come out,” he said. “It’s just the nature of the game now.”
Later in the game, UCF was flagged for the same offense on a block against Ahmad Christian, but the officiating crew met and then picked up the flag.
“I didn’t know you could pick them up,” coach Steve Spurrier said.
The fact there still is so much question about how and when the penalty is called proves Ward is right — there needs to be a change.