The NCAA made a big push regarding player safety this season by cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits.
However, in the South Carolina-North Carolina game, the system failed.
South Carolina punt returner Victor Hampton was losing his balance and falling to the turf when North Carolina safety Brandon Ellerbe decided to tackle Hampton helmet first. Their helmets struck, Hampton protested, but no flag was thrown for the play (a flag was thrown for a different penalty).
According to the new rules, a player who targets will be immediately ejected and the offending team will be assessed a 15-yard penalty.
As you can see from the video, Hampton was already going down to the turf and once a player is on the ground, he doesn’t need to be touched to be down like the NFL. So, Ellerbe’s “tackle” wasn’t even necessary and a penalty should have been assessed.
With such a high-profile game, the officials – and by extension the NCAA – missed an opportunity to send an early message to all of college football.