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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona football reacts to tougher targeting penalty

Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker // The Daily Wildcat UA Quarterback B.J. Denker gets takcled by NAU Defensiveback Lucky Dozier at UA’s season opener on Friday.

Six NCAA football players were ejected this past week for violating the NCAA’s targeting penalty. The penalty, which now allows referees to eject college football players for viciously striking opposing players in the head or neck, drew a lot of attention this summer for being too harsh and unclear.

The official number of players who were penalized for targeting from week one has not yet been released, but six players, including California’s Chris McCain and Oregon’s Terrance Mitchell, were ejected from their respective games this past week for the infraction.

“I think [the targeting penalty] is scary,” UA head football coach Rich Rodriguez said on Monday. “But I think you’ll see it every weekend, guys getting ejected. You’ve just got to educate your players.”

Players who are ejected in the second half of a game not only have to leave the current game but are also suspended for the first half of the following game — that is, if the penalty isn’t reviewed and overturned.

Though McCain was ejected in the fourth quarter of California’s Saturday night 44-30 loss to No. 22 Northwestern, he will not be suspended from the Golden Bears’ upcoming game against Portland State because a Pac-12 review committee overturned the call.

This past week, there were also a couple of players who were initially ejected, but after a quick review had the ejection lifted and were allowed to return to the game immediately.

“It’s interesting, and I understand why they are emphasizing it, but it won’t change the way we play or practice,” senior Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer said. “There’s too much other stuff to worry about for it to really cross your mind when you’re playing.”

A number of Wildcats had seen the highlights of the ejections but said that they didn’t think the calls were outrageous. Some said that plays like the ones that happened this past week happen all the time in games and have always been called, but are now receiving more attention because of the ejections and suspensions that come with them.

All the players ejected this week were defensive players, but the new penalty is not limited to defense. Wildcats on both sides of the ball understand its severity.

“[The targeting penalty] is real serious,” sophomore receiver Johnny Jackson said. “We can’t afford in any game to lose anyone. And when you’re going a million miles per hour, accidents happen. It would be a rough way to lose someone.”

Jackson, also a punt returner for Arizona, said he appreciates the extra protection that the new rule could bring in.

“You can’t worry too much about your safety,” Jackson said. “You’ve just got to go play, but knowing that the guy trying to stop me will have this to worry about does make me feel more safe.”

Rodriguez said he doesn’t have the time to teach his team about proper tackling because it’s something he expects them to already know how to do. But he said he has thought about ways to better inform his players so they don’t get ejected.

“I need to get our video guy to put together a clip of all the targeting and ejections and show it to our players,” Rodriguez said, “just so they know what the parameters are.”

-Follow Luke Della @LukeDellaDW

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