Terrible Targeting Call on Elijah Shumate Costly

Elijah Shumate Targeting Penalty
Photo: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame is no stranger to questionable targeting penalties on road games that proved costly and Saturday night was another instance following Elijah Shumate’s 4th quarter targeting penalty.  The senior safety’s penalty nearly cost the Irish last night and will put them in a tough situation heading into next week’s trip to Pittsburgh.

Because Shumate was flagged for targeting in the second half, he must sit out the entire first half against Pittsburgh this coming weekend.  If Notre Dame had more depth at the safety position that wouldn’t be too big of a concern, but injuries have left the Irish depleted at the position which was clearly evident immediately following Shumate’s ejection.

Before really getting into the impact of Shumate’s penalty though, let’s discuss the penalty itself.  On 3rd and goal PJ Walker fired a pass over the middle to Romond Deloatch towards the back of the endzone.  Deloatch couldn’t handle the pass and was then immediately met by Shumate who it appeared was leading with his shoulder, but as Deloatch fell to the ground there was some helmet to helmet contact.

Here’s play in question.

By the letter of the rule, there should have been a penalty for helmet to helmet contact since it did occur, but for no reason should targeting have been called on the field.  How on earth replay officials from the American Athletic Conference confirmed the penalty in record time is beyond me as well.  It was questionable at best and terrible at worst.  Shumate wasn’t leading with his helmet, it wasn’t an overly malicious hit, and the helmet to helmet contact occurred due to gravity and Deloatch falling to the ground.

Blame Isaac Newton.  Not Elijah Shumate.

Brian Kelly seemed to agree after the game.  “They said that it was targeting, which targeting to me is when you’re obviously trying to obviously take somebody out.  I thought he led with his shoulder but I’d have to watch it again,” said Kelly after the game.

Expect Kelly to have more thoughts on Shumate’s penalty at his Sunday presser.

All that said, the penalty turned out to be costly – just as Stephon Tuitt’s questionable targeting penalty on the road against Pitt in 2013.  Three plays later Jahad Thomas took a pitch from Walker.  Shumate’s replacement, Nicky Baratti appeared to have Thomas lined up but a pretty simple cut by Thomas sent Baratti flying by and Thomas walked into the endzone.   It’s tough to blame Baratti for the missed tackle.  The oft-injured safety has rarely played this year after there were questions if he even would play this year following his multiple shoulder injuries.

There’s that injuries word again.  Notre Dame is still without 5th year transfer Avery Sebastian since week one and his return this season sounds highly questionable.  Drue Tranquil was also lost for the season after his freak ACL injury suffered celebrating a big pass breakup against Georgia Tech in week 3.  Those injuries have left Notre Dame with just three healthy safeties most weekends.

Unless Notre Dame appeals Shumate’s penalty and wins, the Irish will be without his services for the first half of the Pitt game per NCAA rules.   Brian Vangorder could get a little creative in replacing Shumate with Matthias Farley and inserting freshman Nick Coleman or sophomore Nick Watkins in the slot, but neither has played much this year.  Keivarae Russell could also play in the slot since he cross trained their over the summer to make things easier for Coleman or Watkins should they go that route.  They could also just roll with Baratti against the run oriented Panthers as well.

Regardless of what Vangorder and Kelly decide to do, the fact remains that this latest targeting penalty nearly proved deadly to Notre Dame’s playoff hopes.  The penalty not only gave Temple new life on a drive that stalled, but immediately following the penalty his replacement missed a tackle that resulted in a game tying score.  Throw in Shumate’s suspension for the first half next week and one judgement call from a referee can have a lasting impact on Notre Dame.

Ironically, Pittsburgh was the last location of a questionable targeting call against the Irish when Tuitt was ejected in 2013 for a hit on Pitt quarterback Tom Savage where again the offensive player’s motion was the only reason helmet to helmet contact occurred.  That penalty gave the Panthers new life that night and they went on to upset the Irish.  Luckily for Notre Dame that was not the case this time around as they rallied to escape Pennsylvania with the victory.  Next week brings another challenge because of a single judgement call though.

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  1. It look as though Temple had game plan to grab hold do what ever to make sure the WR for ND would not come up with big play. The reason why Temple played so good up front was they were sending everyone and keeping thier DB and safetys one on one. I am sure they were told do your best but if WR get away grab hold do what ever you want to stop the big play.

    I think it is time to re look at 15 yards is that enough on some of these big plays as I see more and more grabbing to stop a big play.

  2. I agree .. BK fails to get his players up as they continually play down to the competition what trick play will Pitt come up with?

  3. Forget the targeting call. The officiating was laughable throughout the entire game. How does the NCAA select which refs do which games anyway? Just random selection, pulling names out of a hat it seems. I understand there are 120 or so teams in Division 1A, so in order to get all those games officiated they’re going to have to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but come on! This was a prime time game involving two ranked teams. Put the rubbish officials on the irrelevant games. The refs from the Duke/Miami game got reprimanded. Why not these idiots too? PI on an offensive lineman, the call vs Luke, the PI call vs #82, the call against the offensive lineman for trying to push the pile while the play was still going on (can’t recall how they labeled that one, but it was not correct). Just Terrible

  4. Thanks for this story. It was a terrible call. I thought the league officials were trying to help Temple as soon as ND took the lead. There were a lot of pass interference calls but that was because Temple cornerbacks were holding on every play. Even on the second interception I thought the Temple guy had ahold of a jersey.

  5. Agree with Storespook. I have seen ejection overuled. I’d say defense carried that game. Play calling was fine. Plays were called to area of defense weakness. ND offense execution was just to slow. ND offense was simply handled and out performed. This one was on players. Not staff. Besides we all new Temple had a strong D. Which gives an offense life. It did for Temple at times. Thank ND defense for that win. Especially the front. Thanks.

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the gutless wonders who supposedly review bogus “targeting” calls EVER reverse the call on the field. The rule is the absolute worst rule in organized sports.

  7. I think the officiating changed once the Temple coach complained. Luke’s pass interference call then the no call on Kizer’s second interception. Also on the one Temple touchdown run there was obvious holding on our defensive end.

    Why does ND agree to play away games with the other conferences officials? Are we playing Stanford with PAC # officials?

  8. Well, it was obvious that the officiating did not show well. Being impartial was not there strong suit!
    Home cooking appeared to the corset of business.
    Being an official myself well have days we would like to take back!

  9. Very poor and inconsistent officiating. However, that WAS NOT the reason for the near train wreck narrowly escaped by ND last night. ND was facing the 108th ranked offense in Temple!! That should be enough said about ND’s defense. Kizer showed a high level of resiliency, courage, poise, AND talent. No one else did on offense; Fuller’s TD catch the exception. Bad game plan? Bad execution? Certainly poor play calling by BK. Play calling not equal to the talent on offense. Importantly, a very,very good Temple defense and defensive game plan. Thank God for the win, we live to fight for the playoffs for another week.

  10. Besides the targeting call there were several defensive holding and pass interference calls that weren’t called against Temple DBs. The AAC officials didn’t look good in the national spotlight.

  11. Looked to me like Temple’s 23 was targeting. His was the only helmet turning into another players helmet and it was his crown that hit the oppositions helmet.

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