The UCLA Football team was involved in two questionable targeting plays against Hawaii that did not go their way. The definition of the rule aside, was the Pac-12 in the wrong?
The UCLA Football team had a terrible time on the defensive side of the ball against Hawaii. It was not that Hawaii was an offensive juggernaut — though they were a pretty formidable Mountain West opponent — it was that UCLA was hit with several injuries and one targeting call.
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You could also say they had a targeting non-call, which in fact led to one of those injuries.
To start the game, the Bruins were without Boss Tagaloa for an unspecified injury. Then they eventually lost DBs Adarius Pickett and Jaleel Wadood. In the middle of all that was a questionable hit/block by Hawaii TE Metuisela Unga on UCLA LB Kenny Young.
During a successful pass play to the strong side, another of Hawaii’s TEs, Kaiwi Chung, found some open space down the sideline. Young was in pursuit when Unga laid him out. But was it targeting?
The Pac-12 replay crew made an official review and declared it was a legal hit and not targeting. That is where several Bruin fans see things differently, including me.
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The block was ruled legal because the hit went “shoulder-to-shoulder”. But there looks to be more than that. Unga not only appears to be leaving his feet, but there was also a vicious helmet-to-helmet connection, despite the shoulder-to-shoulder hit.
On top of that, Unga slightly lowers his head, though that seems to be my simple opinion.
Either way, it was a hit that laid out a defenseless Kenny Young and if the Pac-12 was really interested in the safety of their players, they would have taken a longer look at this hit. Young was blindsided and landed hard. That hit essentailly knocked him out of the game and the fear is that he might have suffered a concussion.
If that was not infuriating enough, UCLA got called for targeting late in the game.
On a potential 4th quarter touchdown catch, Hawaii WR Kalakaua Timoteo held on to the ball until he and an oncoming Josh Woods collided in the end zone. The ball was dropped. Woods was also called for targeting and was ejected from the game. He will also have to sit out the first half of the Memphis game as punishment.
This hit was a lot more questionable as Woods is simply following through with his momentum and unfortunately made helmet contact. Though it is Woods’ responsibility to pull back, there is a good argument in his favor that this was definitively not targeting.
There should not be “an eye for an eye” mentality. There should be no reason UCLA gets a call back just because one was missed. They are two separate incidents and should be treated as such.
The problem is that both of these calls seem to be in the wrong, unfortunately the targeting rule has a lot of grey areas and it is a bit hard to define from incident to incident. Still, this is not a good look for the officiating crew of the Pac-12 and they need to quickly come to a decision on how these incidents are handled in the future, because, as stated above, the safety of the players should be #1.