NORMAN — Through three weeks, college football's new targeting enforcements appear to be accomplishing their designed goals.
Penalties for headhunting have dipped slightly below last year's levels through the first few weeks of the season.
In the offseason, the NCAA added an ejection to go along with the 15-yard personal foul penalty for targeting, trying to cut down on the kinds of hits that lead to traumatic brain injuries.
While the ejection is reviewable, the penalty yardage is not.
With the ejections, the NCAA appears to be accomplishing its goal of limiting shots to the head, but some want the rule tweaked to allow the penalty to be overturned as well.
Last season, targeting — a rule designed to punish defenders for striking defenseless players in the head or neck — was called about once every eight games.
In the season's first week, 10 targeting penalties were called in 75 games at college football's highest level — slightly above last year's rate.
In subsequent weeks, though, the number of targeting penalties have dipped below last year's rate — four in the second week, two that weren't overturned in the third week.
As of Saturday evening, only Florida's Brian Poole was flagged and ejected for targeting in Week 4.
Around a third of the targeting penalties that have been called have been subsequently overturned on replay.
Oklahoma got caught up in it a week ago against Tulsa when safety Gabe Lynn was initially ejected for a hit on Trey Watts.
Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said after the game that Lynn did exactly as he was taught.
Lynn's ejection was overturned but the penalty stood, leading to a Tulsa touchdown two plays later.
That score didn't matter much, but the penalty has the potential to be much more harmful when a team loses a key player or the penalty leads to a score at a crucial time.
In the season's first week, California defensive lineman Chris McCain was called for targeting early in the fourth quarter of a tied game against Northwestern.
McCain, one of Cal's most disruptive defenders, was ejected, and the Wildcats went on to kick a field goal on that drive and won 44-30.
McCain's ejection was overturned only after the game, when the Pac-12 said there had been a failure in the replay process and that McCain's hit had not been reviewed.
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