While Clemson benefited from the targeting rule in the College Football Playoff semifinals against Ohio State, the rule sent one of its best defensive players to the locker room in Monday night’s national championship game against LSU.
James Skalski, Clemson’s junior starter at middle linebacker, was ejected for targeting after drilling LSU receiver Justin Jefferson on a third-quarter completion. Jefferson made a catch coming across the middle of the field and Skalski lowered the crown of his helmet when making the tackle.
Though it wasn’t initially called on the field, a review was quickly initiated. Following that review, Skalski was assessed a 15-yard penalty for targeting and ejected from the game.
Skalski is a big part of the Clemson defense and was wreaking havoc on LSU quarterback Joe Burrow as a blitzer throughout the game. Before the ejection, Skalski had five tackles and one sack and also had several hits on Burrow. One hit he delivered on Burrow late in the first half left the Heisman-winning quarterback shaken up.
After the penalty on Skalski, LSU increased its lead to 35-25 thanks to a Burrow touchdown pass to tight end Thaddeus Moss. Jake Venables, the son of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, entered the game in Skalski’s place.
A targeting penalty levied to Ohio State’s Shaun Wade kept a Clemson drive alive and ultimately led to the Tigers’ first touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl win over OSU. That proved to be a big momentum shift. This targeting penalty, however, proved costly for Clemson as LSU went on to win 42-25.
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