NORMAN — In early August, I asked senior running back Brennan Clay what he thought of the NCAA’s new targeting rules.
He gave a somewhat surprising answer, considering that as a freshman, he suffered a concussion after sustaining a big blow to the head from a Florida State defender.
Clay was carried off the field on a stretcher that day.
“It’s kind of taking away from the game,” Clay said a couple months ago. “Football is football; you can’t be thinking about where you’ve gotta hit this guy. Is my head up? You’ve just gotta make that tackle.”
Oklahoma has felt the impact of the new targeting rules on a few occasions so far this season. Senior safety Gabe Lynn was ejected, then had his ejection overturned after a big hit on Tulsa’s Trey Watts.
Then just a couple weeks ago at Notre Dame, Clay came across the middle on a third-down play. The ball bounced off his hands as Notre Dame linebacker Ben Councell collided with him, helmet-to-helmet.
Councell was ejected from the game and had to sit out the first half of the Irish’s next contest against Arizona State.
Clay was shaken up, but eventually returned to the game and carried the ball seven more times.
After Tuesday’s practice, I asked Clay if his opinion on targeting had changed after the violent collision with Councell.
“I still feel the same way,” Clay said. “I felt like it was a good hit. It hurt for a little bit, but you know, you get back up. That’s football. You’re gonna get hit.
“It’s so hard to be able to control your body and play football at the same time. It’s a physical game. I was a victim of it, but I shook it off and got back in the game. It’s hit or miss. It’s kinda hard to dictate what the outcome may be. I still feel the same about it.”
So, I continued, you don’t think Councell should’ve been ejected?
“I don’t think so,” Clay said. “I mean, especially since he has to miss playing time and all that. That’s a little bit too harsh for me. It could be a 15-yarder, but for him to get ejected and not be able to play one of the biggest games they played the whole year, against us? I don’t feel like that’s justified at all.”