Big Ten: Targeting call against Penn State should have been reversed

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Temple's Jahad Thomas (5) rushes past Penn State's Brandon Smith (47) during the game on Sept. 17, 2016 at Beaver Stadium.

The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday that a targeting call against Penn State that resulted in the ejection of middle linebacker Brandon Smith in last Saturday's game against Michigan should have been reversed by the replay official.

The conference issued a statement from its Rosemont, Ill., headquarters that said it did not "find fault with the flag that was thrown by the on-field officials as they are instructed to prioritize player safety when making calls."

However, in defining targeting as "forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent that goes beyond making a legal tackle, a legal block, or playing the ball," the Big Ten said the rule did not fit in this case.

"In this particular play, [Smith] was making a legitimate attempt to get to the ball," the conference said, "and, upon full review, the call of targeting should have been reversed by the replay official."

Penn State coach James Franklin said Wednesday that he had been in conversation with the Big Ten since Saturday about the issue. He called it "kind of a unique situation."

"I think that was one of the reasons the Big Ten came out with a statement, to make sure everybody is clear, because it is a little bit of a gray area," he said. "But there is clearly - I think you saw in the statement that was put out - clearly a clause for it if you're going for the ball."

He said he understood the reason for targeting penalties.

"It is important for our game that we're doing everything we possibly can to protect the student-athlete and to protect the game, to be honest with you," he said. "But it is tough. You're going to tackle a guy. You're trying to be aggressive. I think we've done a pretty good job with targeting in general."

Smith was ejected with 14 minutes, 55 seconds left in the second quarter of Penn State's 49-10 loss to Michigan. The Nittany Lions already were without their three regular starting linebackers because of injuries, and lost Smith's replacement later in the second quarter with an injury.

A rule passed by the NCAA for this season gave the replay official "the authority to re-officiate and review all aspects of the on-field targeting call and, in the absence of specific indicators identified by NCAA targeting standards, the replay official can reverse the on-field call."

Yazujian a semifinalist

Long snapper Tyler Yazujian, a graduate of Spring Ford High School, was named a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy awarded by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The award is given to college football's top scholar-athlete who also displays strong leadership and citizenship. Twelve to 14 finalists will be announced on Nov. 1. Penn State's John Urschel won the Campbell Trophy in 2013.

Staff writer Erin McCarthy contributed to this article.