David Shaw: 'Anybody who watches football would say that's a penalty'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday September 28, 2016

Days after a targeting penalty was not called in Stanford’s win over UCLA, David Shaw was still fuming.

Stanford wide receiver Francis Owusu was knocked out of Saturday's game with a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit in the second quarter that caused a fumble. Officials ruled the contact wasn’t made with the top of the helmet and that Owsusu wasn’t defenseless, meaning the contact was legal. ESPN’s analysts on the game, including rules expert Dave Cutaia, thought it should be a penalty. (See video below)

Shaw joined SiriusXM College Sports Nation this week and was asked his thoughts on the targeting rule.

“At the beginning of the season, I thought I knew,” he said. “I thought I completely understood it, and the bottom line is everyone said it nationally, locally, that officials are supposed to err on the side of protecting the players. We want to protect the players. Shots to the head will be penalized. In particular, helmet shots to the head.

It doesn’t matter to me if he’s a defenseless player, a receiver, a quarterback, he’s a football player running to the ball. The defensive player should not be able to use his helmet as a weapon against the helmet of a runner. That’s what I thought was understood widely. Apparently, it’s not. For me, the rule needed to be amended. Anybody who watched the game, anybody who watches football would tell you in our game right now, that has to be penalized.”

The rule says targeting is forcible contact to the head or neck of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. Some indicators must include a player leaving their feet, an upward/forward thrust, leading with the helmet or lowering the head before a hit.”

Not every helmet-to-helmet hit is targeting, but it sounds like Shaw would like it to be, and by most indications, the UCLA hit should have been called.

Owusu will miss this Friday’s game against Washington. The targeting rule has drawn criticism since its inception. The goal is to protect players and by most accounts and data, it’s doing that, but Shaw wants it more specific.

The only good that hopefully comes from this is that they use that to say, OK, we need to put more specific language in the rulebook that states any player that uses his helmet against another player is subject to discipline,” Shaw said. “whether it’s a 15-yard penalty, ejection, etc. That’s the way it should read.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.