NASHVILLE - Add the Georgia Bulldogs to the list of college football teams that are not too tickled about the NCAA's new penalties for targeting.
Bulldogs junior defensive end Ray Drew and junior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson were each penalized for targeting during Saturday's 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt. A targeting penalty this season results in an automatic player disqualification pending a review of the play.
Wilson was allowed to remain in the game but Drew wasn't as fortunate.
"I'm not trying to say much, but that whole call is a BS call to me," Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "I think it ruins the game. I think it's going to ruin the game of football."
NCAA Rule 9-1-4 states that "No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. By rule, when in question, it is a foul."
A replay official must have indisputable video evidence that there was no such contact to overturn the call on the field.
Drew was flagged with 11:19 remaining in the second quarter after hitting Commodores quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels after Carta-Samuels completed a second-and-10 pass to tailback Wesley Tate for 7 yards to Georgia's 20-yard line. The penalty gave Vanderbilt a first down at the 10, and the Commodores scored a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead.
No player on Georgia's defense entered Saturday with more momentum than Drew, who had tallied five sacks in his previous three games. Drew became the first Georgia player to be called for the penalty, but he will return in two weeks when the Bulldogs face Florida.
"I promised myself I wouldn't say anything horrendous about the officiating in the game," Georgia coach Mark Richt said on more than one occasion.
Wilson was flagged early in the fourth quarter for striking receiver Jonathan Krause after a fourth-and-4 pass from backup quarterback Patton Robinette to Krause from Georgia's 30-yard line was incomplete. The targeting rule stipulates that a review can reinstate a player but cannot change the personal-foul call, so the Commodores got a first-and-10 at the 15.
Vanderbilt scored on that drive as well to pull within 27-21.
"Any time you get penalties and they allow them to get first downs, you're frustrated with that," Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. "We'll look at it and move on from it and be ready to go next time. I understand the rule pretty good and what is a foul and what isn't a foul, but I'll leave the comment on that up to Coach Richt.
"It's a tough job on those guys. If it's right, it's right, but if it's not, it's going to hurt the team that's out there, and that's a tough thing. The most important thing is getting the call right, and that's something that obviously will be addressed as we move forward."
When asked if some penalties should be reversed if the player is reinstated, Grantham said, "I'm sure that's something they will look at moving forward, but it doesn't really help us today."
Richt said his players have drills that make sure they're not hitting above the shoulder and that players are very conscientious of the rule. He added that the game is being played very fast and that an offensive player may catch the ball at a certain height but may be lower by the time the defender gets to him.
Georgia coaches were diplomatic in their responses toward targeting questions, but their players weren't playing along, especially on the penalty against Wilson.
"That was a messed-up call," safety Corey Moore said. "You can clearly see his helmet, and he didn't target the dude. He made a correct tackle, and that really upset me, because that was a big part of the game.
"This rule is like giving an extra man for the offense, because you have to be timid as a tackler. It's a nagging rule that needs to be changed."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.