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Dr. Saturday

Baylor’s K.J. Morton allowed to stay in game after targeting call on hit to Sterling Shepard (GIF)

Nick Bromberg
Dr. Saturday

Baylor's K.J. Morton got to stay in the game after his ejection on a targeting penalty against Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard during a bizarre play in the first quarter.

Let's start with the hit. The pass was complete to Shepard as he was running into Morton's path. Morton lowered his shoulder as Shepard lowered his helmet, and this happened:

View photo

Officials immediately threw the flag for targeting as Shepard's head hit the turf after the violent collision. However, replays showed that Morton's shoulder hit Shepard's shoulder and not his helmet, and after a review, he was allowed to stay in the game.

Following the play, Baylor's Ahmad Dixon received two personal foul penalties, one for unnecessary roughness and another for taking off his helmet. The three personal foul penalties -- remember, even though a targeting ejection is overturned, the 15 yard penalty still stands -- meant that Oklahoma ended up with the ball at the Baylor seven.

And there's one more element to the play that got overlooked amidst the personal fouls and the hit. It looks like Shepard fumbled the football, despite the play being originally ruled incomplete.

The ball was clearly coming out of his hands as he went to the turf after he took two full steps before the contact, and Baylor clearly recovered the football before the ball skipped out of bounds.

That brings up another angle in the complex web that is the NCAA's poorly executed targeting rule. Because the ejection was overturned, Baylor would have a case that it should have the ball after a replay review if the pass was incomplete.

Here's where it gets tricky. Because the 15-yard penalty is still ridiculously enforced in the instances in which the call is not deemed to be targeting, is it treated like any other penalty even if it really isn't a penalty?

If Baylor would have been flagged for defensive holding during the play, the fumble wouldn't matter. But since the ejection was overturned, the penalty didn't happen, right? So why shouldn't Baylor have a legitimate claim to the football? (Dixon's penalties happened after the ball was dead and would have been enforced after a change of possession.)

It's another layer in a rule that needs to be examined thoroughly at the end of the season. Penalizing defenders for purposeful headshots is one thing. Simply removing the 15-yard penalty in the case of an overturned ejection would go a long way to removing a bunch of complexity.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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