Alabama Should Have Been Flagged for Targeting, Says Veteran NFL Referee

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    Tennessee Alabama

    Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker taken down by an Alabama defensive player. Photo via Alabama Football (@AlabamaFTBL) on Twitter.

    During the first quarter of Tennessee’s SEC game against Alabama on Saturday night, a play occurred in which Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker took a vicious hit from an Alabama defensive player near the sideline.

    With just over seven minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Hooker scrambled out of the pocket and tossed the ball to Jabari Small streaking up the right sideline. Alabama linebacker Will Anderson was the initial player tracking down Hooker, tackling him from behind during the throw. However, at the same time, Alabama DB Malachi Moore also came screaming up the field, delivering a massive hit to Hooker in the upper torso and helmet area.

    While Tennessee did complete the third-down play for a massive gain, there was surprisingly no flag on the play. Tennessee’s up-tempo offense kept the ball moving while many were left wondering about the previous play.

    After the play, Terry McAulay, a veteran NFL referee of three Super Bowls and the Sunday Night Football rules analyst, gave his reaction to the call on Twitter. To make it simple, McAulay believes a targeting call should have been made.

    “This was a foul for roughing the passer with targeting,” McAulay said on Twitter while referring to Hooker’s play. “The defender launches and makes forcible contact to the head of a defenseless player. Replay should have stopped the game and created the foul.”

    When examining the play closer, McAulay’s analysis is correct. Moore not only makes forcible contact with a defenseless player, but he also does so while launching himself forward.

    According to the official SEC website, targeting occurs when “a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball.”

    Additionally, according to an NBC Sports article from Sept. 2021, “the NCAA targeting rule bans any forcible contact leading with the crown of the helmet or to the head or neck area of a defenseless player.”

    Fourth-ranked Alabama took down Tennessee by a score of 52-24 on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.