Monday night’s primetime college football game between Ole Miss and Louisville garnered plenty of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of riding the wave of a weekend full of packed college stadiums and nail-biting finishes, viewers were left agitated because of the NCAA’s clunky targeting rules, which caused four players to be ejected before halftime.
The Rebels ultimately cruised to a 43-24 win in a game in which Louisville failed to score until the third quarter. But make no mistake, the officials left Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the game’s biggest losers.
If this is targeting we might as well start playing flag football.
— Yahoo Sportsbook (@YahooSportsbook) September 7, 2021
Another targeting call. Ole Miss LB Lakia Henry has been ejected. pic.twitter.com/RVhSpCUibo
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 7, 2021
A quarter-and-a-half through Ole Miss-Louisville:
Ole Miss scoring drives: 4
Players ejected for targeting: 4
Louisville first downs: 4
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) September 7, 2021
What drew the ire of most fans was the fact that the targeting calls seemed like “bang-bang” plays that left defenders with no other options. Few would argue that the hits in question were actually dirty or intentional. Replay reviews had everyone from the game’s announcers to Ray Charles questioning the penalties.
Fox Sports’ Joel Klatt was active on Twitter during the game, pleading for the NCAA to address the maddening issues with targeting:
The problem with Targeting? It is officiated wildly inconsistent & yet carries the most punitive consequences!
must be addressed!!
We need to only eject in egregious and malicious occurrences.
Targeting 1 (15 yards)
Targeting 2 (15 yards & ejection)
— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) September 7, 2021
“It is officiated wildly inconsistent & yet carries the most punitive consequences! Must be addressed!”
Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin, who missed the game due to COVID, was interviewed by ESPN’s Molly McGrath at halftime and couldn’t resist taking a shot at the officials: “We just need this Big Ten officiating crew (working the game) to teach us how to tackle because, obviously, we don’t know.”
Kiffin was far from the only one who left Monday night feeling confused.