Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley announced Tuesday he has turned over a potential missed targeting call involving junior running back Eric Gray and is awaiting a response from the Big 12.
In the first quarter of OU’s game against Tulane on Saturday, Gray was hammered by an opposing player who led with the crown of his helmet as quarterback Spencer Rattler dove into the end zone. The play, considered by NFL rules expert Terry McAulay as a missed targeting call by the Big 12 officials, was not flagged and play continued.
Another Big 12 targeting miss. Leads with the crown and makes forcible contact using the crown to an opponent. This would also be considered a rare blindside block by the defense, thus, the offensive player is defenseless and gets head/neck area protection. pic.twitter.com/n0KeALIy5m— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) September 5, 2021
Didn’t notice this live but ouch town population Eric Gray pic.twitter.com/fctf15hA1X— Brady Trantham (@BradyDoesSports) September 5, 2021
“It looked like a targeting to me that they just missed,” Riley said. “But we'll see what the official response is from the league.”
According to Riley, the criteria for targeting is significantly more apparent and identifiable now than it was in years past. In the first half of Monday night’s game between Louisville and Mississippi, four different players were ejected on seperate questionable and fan-enraging targeting calls. Riley, who watched the game, specifically referenced Louisville defensive lineman Tabarius Peterson’s helmet-to-helmet hit during a kickoff return.
Targeting #3 - Tabarius Petersonpic.twitter.com/DXdSPIM4Rz— Ben Eby 🚀🚀🚀 (@TheBenEby) September 7, 2021
“I think it's pretty clear, I mean I think the only times I think it becomes iffy are determining who's protected and who's not at times, like is it a blindside or was it not,” Riley said. “There was one last night on a kickoff return where they said it's a blindside and he didn't see, and I'm looking at it like ‘the guys are running right into each other.’
“Now, you go with the crown of the helmet, it doesn't matter who it is, anytime you lead with the crown, you're going to get yourself in trouble, and so there were several of those last night.”
Relatably, during the second quarter of OU’s Saturday game, sophomore safety Key Lawrence was flagged for targeting after his hit on Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt, whose helmet popped off on the play. However, the call was reversed after replay showed Lawrence hit Pratt in the midsection, not the head.
“Lawrence’s in the game was interesting, just because he obviously hit him with the shoulder, I mean it clearly wasn't head to head,” Riley said. “I think it's a tough call for officials. In my opinion, that quarterback didn't slide nearly early enough to gain protection.
"I mean, if you've already committed yourself to the tackle and the guy's not even began to slide, I just don't know how you put that on the defensive player, but you do understand that in this day and age, they're gonna err on the side of protection and it's hard to argue with that.”
After discussing Lawrence’s play, Riley affirmed his faith in college football officials’ procedures for handling potential targeting situations.
“I think it's in a good place,” Riley said. “I liked that they're all reviewed. I like that you can take them off, and I felt like the guys in our league the last few years as it's changed have really done a good job."
“I don't feel like there's been a lot that maybe we'll call it targeting on the field that they left it. They've really made it sound, like it's got to hold up strong on replay, and I think our league has stuck to it well, so I think our guys, coaches have a clear understanding. I feel like it's been well defined. It doesn't mean it's easy, but I do think it's well defined."