"Targeting" ejection tonight; BSU Dillon Lukehart

Submitted by Section 1 on October 26th, 2013 at 12:11 AM

This was the first "targeting" ejection that I have seen in real-time.  I think that anytime a "targeting" penalty arises, the player in question is automatically going to be stained with a kind of prejudice, for all of the subsequent views on slow-mo replay.

I was shocked that this good football play resulted in a penalty and an ejection.

This article embeds a .gif of the play.  Not very good video quality, but it's all there is right now; even this .gif might not survive.  If anybody has better video, feel free to add.



The NCAA, rightly anticipating trouble with the targeting rule, issued a memo in March containing a bulletin on the targeting rule:


From the text of the bulletin:



Target—to take aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with an apparent intent that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball.

Crown of the Helmet—the top portion of the helmet.

Contact to the head or neck area—not only with the helmet, but also with the forearm, fist, elbow, or shoulder—these can all lead to a foul.

Defenseless player—a player not in position to defend himself.

Examples (Rule 2-27-14):

 A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass.

 A receiver attempting to catch a pass, or one who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a ball carrier.

 A kicker in the act of or just after kicking a ball, or during the kick or the return.  

 A kick returner attempting to catch or recover a kick.

 A player on the ground.

 A player obviously out of the play.

 A player who receives a blind-side block.

 A ball carrier already in the grasp of an opponent and whose forward progress has been stopped.

 A quarterback any time after a change of possession.



Risk of a foul is high with one or more of these:

 Launch—a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make contact in the head or neck area

 A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with contact at the head or neck area—even though one or both feet are still on the ground

 Leading with helmet, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with contact at the head or neck area

 Lowering the head before attacking by initiating contact with the crown of the helmet  

These indicate less risk of a foul:

 Heads-up tackle in which the crown of the helmet does not strike above the shoulders

 Wrap-up tackle

 Head is to the side rather than being used to initiate contact

 Incidental helmet contact that is not part of targeting but is due to the players changing position during the course of play  


So I'd have to agree that in the Lukehart play, the receiver was indeed a "defenseless player" by rule.  But geeze, he's trying to catch a touchdown pass.  Anyway, rules is rules.

But did Lukehart hit with the crown of his helmet?  Absolutely not.

Did he lead with his helmet, forearm, fist, etc.?  No.

Did he lower his head to "attack"?  No.  He moved his head to his own left side, to avoid head-to-head contact.

Did he "strike" the head or neck of the defenseless player?  I think not.  It looked like Lukehart's shoulder pads hitting the upper chest of the reciever.

Lukehart's feet do seem to have left the ground in the other video I saw, watching the game live. 

In context, there was nothing dirty about this game or Lukehart's play that I saw.  In real time, it looked worse than it was, with the scary split second when both players were on the ground motionless and one wondered whether they would get up.  (Both players were uninjured and got up right away.)  That same split second was when the ref made a "targeting" decision.  (Note: the play was reviewed in the game by the replay officials and was "confirmed."  The refs seemingly had no doubt.)

Anyway, I can understand differing opinions on this one.  But my view is that it is either a bad call or a bad rule.  Lukehart does not deserve the infamy of a suspension that will last into the the next game BSU plays.




October 26th, 2013 at 7:47 AM ^

I just watched a video of a recent match between Australia and NZ, and there was virtually no tackling or hitting above the waist that I saw. Which is what American football used to be like back in the '50s.


October 26th, 2013 at 8:41 AM ^

It was the first targeting play I'd seen, and it made me like the rule. He the receiver who was jumping and completely defenseless, and the defender led with his shoulder and hit him around the neck/facemask area. If this is the type of play targeting gets called for, I have absolutely no problem with this rule. Now, they do need to fix the rule about overturning the penalty in addition to the ejection, but that's a small quibble, since how many other 15-yard penalties are automatically reviewed after they're called?

If you like watching sports where people die in combat, build a time machine and go back to Ancient Rome. Football is fun, but if rules can be put in place to help prevent serious head and neck injuries, then they should do so. I frankly think the NFL should adopt this rule too. If Brandon Merriweather gets thrown out of the first half of every game, he'll learn what targeting is very quickly, or be out of the league.

I Have A Gnarly Face

October 26th, 2013 at 8:44 AM ^

The targeting rule is ridiculous. Automatic ejection is so lame. If they want to make it a fifteen-yard penalty, fine, or even if they want to increase the penalty to twenty or twenty-five yards, I guess that is OK, but ejecting is over the top.


October 26th, 2013 at 9:31 AM ^

Excellent post, and excellent point.

I have come to the opinion that outlawing hardened helmets, and going back to the days of the leather helmet (or the modern rugby equivalent) would actually make football safer.


It would be such a radical change that nobody would support it, either the safety advocates or the "stop the wussification" advocates, but it should actually give both sides exactly what they are demanding.


October 27th, 2013 at 5:07 AM ^

They're very good at it - the rate of deaths and paralysis has gone way down since they were adopted. This is the primary challenge with putting padding on the outside - it potentially reduces the protection against death. There's an interesting engineering problem there.


October 26th, 2013 at 9:22 AM ^


The above story contains a GIF of Ray Drew's hit in the Georgia / Vanderbilt game last week, and if you look at this one, it seems like he gets shoved (or perhaps loses his footing momentarily) and flies into the player but he was tossed for this all the same. This call didn't seem quite right to me either. 

There was also an ejection in the South Carolina / Tennessee game as well, but that was a helmet-to-helmet hit and looked pretty much like what would be classified as "targeting" by the rule. 

Section 1

October 26th, 2013 at 9:39 AM ^

As I stated from the outset, the .gif that is embedded in my OP link is not the best view.  I saw more replays, with better angles, while watching the game live.  I'd like it if all of them were posted on the 'net somewhere.

It is interesting to me how many people will take angry, hardened positions based only on a later-view of just the .gif.

There's also the painfully obvious point; if instead of Dillon Lukehart, this had been Thomas Gordon or Jarrod Wilson, and the reciever's name was Corey "Philly" Brown, would the MGoBoard's reaction be different?

Section 1

October 26th, 2013 at 11:55 AM ^

Partisanship colors lots of things.  And I am not immune; I don't claim to be.  But I think we both know how this Board would react to a "targeting" call against Michigan in a big game, if it occurred under the exact circumstances seen in the BSU-BYU game.  That one is so easy ("painful" was my chosen word since it implies acknowledgement our own Michigan-partisan bias) that it isn't even worth talking about.  The protest would be massive, right here.  And sure, the flip side previals too; if one of our own boys were the subject of such a hit, there would be lots of MGoWhining about it.  I would be subject to many of those same impulses.

There's a different prejudice at work in this case, where I suspect there's much indifference in Michigan whether BSU or BYU is victorious.  It is about the potential creep of nanny-state impulses on the part of the NCAA and others, respecting concussions.  Some people will propound that "we have to do something about this terrible problem."  Others are suspicious of rules and rulemaking.  And especially suspicious of how the best regulatory intentions have unintended consequences.

When the NCAA papers up with rules like the "targeting" regulations, there are consequences.  Rules need to be put into effect on the field.  I think this one is an interesting case. 


October 26th, 2013 at 3:15 PM ^

Yes, we have a lot of MLive-calibre whiners/homers who would complain, but in my opinion that play was not only unnecessary, but dangerous. Watching the Minnesota game, there was a legal hit (at the midsection) that accomplished the exact same outcome (an incomplete pass) with far less danger to the receiver who had just turned into the hit. I love Michigan football, but I hate people getting hurt when it can be avoided. Would I be pissed that an ejection occurred because it hurts our team? Yes. But I also don't buy into the lame "wussification of America" arguments that seem to be the new go-to.


October 26th, 2013 at 10:44 AM ^

Targeting is dumb. Turn it into a yellow card thing. You get one warning, if you do it again in the same game or next game, then you get ejected. Why review this call and not all calls?

Greg McMurtry

October 26th, 2013 at 12:36 PM ^

"Defenseless" player is a joke. If you're going to jump for a ball with a 220 lb safety ready to destroy you, then you made that choice to get destroyed. If you don't want to get blasted on that play, then gator-arm it, but it's your choice. You chose to put yourself in a "defenseless" spot. Or catch it and assume the fetal position, so that you're not "defenseless." Otherwise you deserve any destruction that comes your way as long as it's not a helmet shot.


October 26th, 2013 at 1:37 PM ^

I did not realize that the QB is off limits AT ANY TIME after a change of possesion (ie fumble/interception). I forgot these guys aren't football players too. What a soft rule. 


October 26th, 2013 at 1:40 PM ^

I wonder what the long term consequences of the rule are on style of play.  I think you could see players putting thmselves in more precarious situations because they think the refs are protecting them or trying to draw a penalty.  Defenses will be forced to play more conservatively, not contesting catches and probably more gang tackling or yielding yards after contact in lieu of a big impact.  It probably also provides a further advantage to passing spread team allowing receivers additional time to make a catch. 

The suspension aspect of the rule seems excessive, especially for a single violation.  I understand they want to stop concussions, but my perspective is that they need to focus on both sides of the ball.  Many concussions result from offensive players taking dangerous chances, leading with their helmet, etc.