OU linebacker Jordan Evans was ejected from the Louisiana Tech game Saturday night. Targeting was the call. Then a Big 12 replay official upheld the call, and Evans’ night was finished. Then on Monday, Evans received some scant consolation when Big 12 director of officiating Walt Anderson told Bob Stoops the call indeed was incorrect and that Evans should not have been ejected.
A perfectly good question is, how could this have happened? It’s one thing for an on-field official to miss a bang-bang call. Evans diving tackle of Louisiana Tech quarterback Cody Sokol, at full speed and first view, indeed seemed in the targeting family. But for the replay official to uphold the call, then to be overturned two days later? What gives?
I can see how it happened. Let me explain.
There are two targeting rules: 9-13 is forcible contact with the helmet, leading with the head down and striking with the crown of the helmet; 9-14 is forcible contact to the head or neck region of a defenseless player, such as a receiver in the process of making a catch or a quarterback in the passing position, using any part of the body, such as shoulder, forearm, hands, etc.
Evans was called for the 9-13 version of targeting. His only alleged crime was leading with the crown. Tackling with his head down. Sokol was running with the ball and was not a defenseless player. Sokol hadn’t gotten on the ground and hadn’t set up to pass. He was a runner. So Evans was called for leading with the crown.
At first glance, it looked like a candidate for a 9-13 violation. And running back the replays, it continued to look like a 9-13 violation. Mike Stoops later said Evans head was up, but on the television replays, that’s not readily apparent. The replay official has a couple of minutes or so to make a determination, then has to move along. The Fox Sports replays seemed to support the on-field call, and the referee announced that the call had been confirmed. The replay official might have had access to more reviews than the television replays, but at a minimum, it seemed like inconclusive, which means the call stands and Evans is ejected.
So what did Anderson and his crew see on Monday that the replay official did not see Saturday night? Well, a couple of things are possible. First, instead of two minutes, the Big 12 office can take all day, if necessary, to figure out a call. And in the Big 12 office, the play can be shown on a big screen instead of a 21-inch monitor.
Anderson must have ruled that Evans led with his head up. The helmet contact, in Anderson’s view, came from the forehead of Evans, not the top of the helmet. It also looks like Evans might have hit Sokol with the shoulder as well as the helmet, which also would have negated some of the ramifications of 9-13. If the contact is partially another part of the body, it’s hard to argue that a player led with the crown of the helmet.
All of which doesn’t make Jordan Evans feel any better. He missed a big chunk of his season opener. And his teammates learned a valuable lesson that they have to be careful when it comes targeting.
Outside linebacker Eric Striker: “Something all defenses have to worry about. Unfortunately, to be going that fast, the offensive player drops low, your head connects, nobody intentionally does it. Coach tells us great tackling techniques, ways not to do that. It happens. It’s unfortunate.”
Insider linebacker Dominique Alexander: “It makes you cautious. We still have to go out there and play fast and physical. Jordan was just out there playing fast and playing hard.”
Cornerback Zack Sanchez: “It’s tough. You never know when a quarterback’s going to slide. We watch a video every week, he’ll learn from it, be more cautious. We have to be careful in the way we attack. Just the aiming point, chest and lower. It’s hard, when someone’s adjusting. But we’re Division I athletes. We should be able to do it.”