Brian Kelly: ACC Officials Confirm Hit on Hunter Was Targeting

Notre Dame WR - Torii Hunter
Photo: Soobum Im // USA TODAY Sports

One of the most controversial calls in Notre Dame’s disappointing season opening loss to Texas Sunday night was the no call on the end-zone hit on Torii Hunter that looked an awful lot like targeting to anyone not wearing Burnt Orange.  On Monday, Brian Kelly told reporters that Notre Dame sent video of the hit to ACC officials who confirmed it should have been called targeting.

Kelly also told the media that they will be asking the Big 12 for clarification on the play.

In case you missed it, the play in question was what looked like a textbook example of targeting by Texas on Torii Hunter Jr in the end-zone on what had looked like it would be a go ahead touchdown.  Hunter was nailed directly in the head as he went to make the catch and ended up leaving the game with a reported concussion.

Hunter obviously was unable to return to action and the Notre Dame offense struggled without him.  Hunter will be going through concussion testing on Sunday and his status for this weekend’s home opener against Nevada is now questionable at best.

Had a penalty been called on Texas, Notre Dame would have had a first down in the redzone with all the momentum.  Without it the Irish lined up for a long field goal that got blocked and the momentum swung back in Texas’s favor.

Notre Dame had plenty of chances to get back in the game and did take the lead later on – albeit a short lived lead.  No penalty flags would have stopped the young Irish secondary from getting burned repeatedly by a true freshman quarterback either – more on that later.

Still, the play in doubt not only cost Notre Dame a potential score, but it also knocked out its starting wide receiver for the remainder of the game and looked much more egregious than some targeting penalties that have gone against Notre Dame over the years such as Stephon Tuitt in 2013 and Elijah Shumate in 2015.

For anyone stating that Notre Dame shouldn’t make a big deal of the play and just move on, Kelly and Notre Dame are absolutely correct in making a big deal of the play so that it gets called next time.  It’s like arguing bad penalties when they happen – you rarely get the call overturned but you are in essence arguing for the next call.  That’s what Kelly and Notre Dame are doing here and that’s exactly what they should be doing.  Well that and trying to fix that defense but again, more on that later.


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  1. We all saw the play and know how it happened. Its the exact kind of play that warranted an ejection 10 times out of 10 in the past. Maybe the refs are calling it differently this year, but based what I just saw in the Michigan/UCF game and others, they’re definitely still erring on the side of caution. But either way, you using the fact that the refs didn’t call it a penalty as your “proof” that it wasn’t a foul is laughable. Good stuff there Jonny Boy. Keep up the good work.

  2. According to the 2016 NCAA Rules, it has to go beyond a regular tackle to count as targeting. That was just a good hit where the defender led with his shoulder, did not leave his feet or boost up into the receiver. But unfortunately momentum and the receiver crouching down into the defender caused their heads to bang. It’s football, that sometimes happen. And I understand being protective of your player and upset about losing a close game. But by the technical definition of targeting this year, that was not targeting, no matter what Kelly says that the ACC says. The fact is the ACC refs on the field did not think it was targeting, nor did the Big 12 refs in the booth… why? Because it was simply not targeting. Targeting means the defender deliberately tried to go above and beyond a regular tackle and that is not what happened here.

  3. George obviously lost interest before reading what I said as well. Basically I just copied the targeting rule directly from the rule book. And based in the letter of the rule, those officials can easily justify not calling targeting.

  4. He said that decapitation is legal if it’s executed by his favorite team. Then he went on to say that if you think he’s a sore winner, you should hear him after he loses.

  5. You learn something New every day Ron. And by the way, who say’s I retired? To answer your question SteelFanRob. Not particularly. The rules says, “No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown of his helmet”, it also says, No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defensless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder. However, it goes on to say it’s targeting if a player launches, and launch is described as leaving ones feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust, (not the case in the hit in the ND Texas game), or if the player attacts from a crouch, “basically same as a launch with an upward forward thrust, but with feet on the ground, (not the case in the hit in the ND Texas game) Leading with the helmet, forearm, fist, or elbow, to attack the head area, or lowering the head before attacking by initiating contact with the crown of the helmet. Those are areas that should be called every time, some that might not be called and what i think actually happened in the Texas game, they are as follows, heads up tackle in which the crown of the helmet does not strike above the shoulders, wrap up tackle, head is to the side rather than being used to initiate contact, and incidental helmet contact that is not part of targeting but is due to the players changing position during the play. I’m watching the play over and over in regular motion and in instant replay, and based on those rules. (which i just looked up when i typed this post) I’m beginning to understand why targeting wasn’t called. Tori Hunter Jr. (who by the way i love, he’s from Texas and was a Texas High school athlete,) those guys always have a place in my heart. was on his way down, when Holton Hill hit him, Hunters Chin area, actually landed on top of Hills shoulder pad, which would create the exact same effect, if the defensive person was attacking from a crouch, (which is illegal, but how we were taught to tackle when i was in college 25 years ago,) Hill wasn’t in a crouch, But because their momentum carried them into each other, the hit very hard to the chin, and caused a concussion. If it had been called targeting I would’ve been ok with it, however, it wasn’t and just based on the rules i just read, the officials were justified in not calling it.

  6. That ends the mystery of what happened to Dexter after he retired from being a serial killer. Never knew he was a UT fan.

  7. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. Dexter, who at least seems like a courteous visitor, points out that the hit was shoulder pad to helmet. Let’s say that’s true. However, isn’t practically any hit to the head of a receiver in the act of catching the ball (i.e., a defenseless target) considered targeting? I take Dexter to be conceding as much.

    I know ND has been flagged for and had players expelled for games for much less blatant hits, although I concede that’s always the case in the eyes of a beholder fan.

    Regardless, welcome Dexter. Good-natured rivals are always welcome here. I for one have become a huge Texas fan. If ND has any chance of going to the POs (can’t you just here Jim Mora’s famous rant: “Playoffs… Playoffs?!” playing in your heads), we need the Horns to be strong. “Hook em Horns”!

  8. It’s not important if the call went for or against either team. What is important is the call was missed by the on field officials and the safety net put in place failed. At the minimum the replay crew needed to officially look at the play and announce something. I’m sure they looked at it during the long stoppage but no one knows foe sure. Too much time is spent on what is egregious vs if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck! This is a foul which needs to be called.

  9. First of all i’m not a Troll, this Article popped up on a UT site, and i read it. Then I read the comments and thought to myself, huh, there are a ton of things no one pointed out. so i would like to take the time to point them out. First of all.. IT WASN’T A TOUCHDOWN. The rule say’s the the receiver must complete the catch through the entirety of the play, so it was what it was, an incomplete pass. Second of all, it was targeting, however when i saw it in regular motion it didn’t look like it, it was only evident when i saw it in slow motion. So it should have been reviewed but it wasn’t. But here is my take, it didn’t cost Notre Dame the game. This happened in the third quarter, Notre Dame had numerous opportunities to take control of the game after that. Including having the ball with 7 minutes to go in the game up 35-31, also having the ball with 2 minutes left in the game with the score tied at 37, and unable to sustain a scoring drive. Besides, even if the targeting had been called, it would have given Notre Dame a first down at the Texas 10, (91/2) yard line, there is no guarantee they would’ve scored, There is no guarantee they wouldn’t have been stopped and forced to kick a field goal and have it blocked. But either way, Notre Dame didn’t lose the game because of a no call, they lost because they gave up 500+ yards of offense an 50 points. disclaimer, im watching replays of the hit as i type. it wasn’t helmet to helmet, it was shoulder pad to helmet. Still targeting, but hardly egregious as many of you have said.

  10. WRONG. ACC office said it “could” have been called.

    Big 12 office just announced it was not targeting. And should not have been reviewed.

    Look at the video, although their helmets did touch, the primary force of the “hit” was shoulder to shoulder. Tackler was not going for the head, If they through a flag every time two players helmets touch, every play would have a 15 yard penalty.

  11. JR, I have no affinity for tOSU. Otherwise I wouldn’t be on another’s team’s site, as I’m not some kind of bottom feeding low life.

  12. The irony in all of this is that the ACC basically said their officials blew an obvious targeting call on the field. Granted, the Big 12 refs have absolutely no excuse for not reviewing the play, but there was an ACC official right there in the back of the end zone staring at Hunter while he got nailed and did nothing about it. Gutless bastards — all of them!

    And for the Texas trolls who get on here and want to argue about Buechelle getting hit in the facemask, that play was a hell of a lot more subtle and less violent than it was when Elliot barreled full speed straight at Hunter’s head. Granted, Rochelle’s play most likely should have been called as well because it fits within what the rule states, but don’t even try to defend the no-call on Elliot with that little chin grazer that Buechelle took as some sort of trump card. That’s like comparing apples to oranges, and if you’re seriously trying to say that those plays were the same and thus both not being called is some sort of a draw, then you’ve got serious mental issues. Nobody saw Buechelle leave the game, nor was he injured after that play. Nobody should be defending the officials for not flagging Elliot based on another bad call. This is about player safety, numb nuts, not football polemics. Stop being a homer for once in your life and look at this objectively because this issue is bigger than a game — that hit could’ve literally changed Hunter’s life for the worse because he sustained a traumatic brain injury. Yes, numb nuts, that’s right — a concussion is a traumatic brain injury albeit a mild one. So shut your mouth and think about that. It’s what actually matters.

  13. Jr,

    Your point isn’t relevant. Unless you want to argue that two wrongs indeed constitute a right.

    Plus, you don’t seem to read very carefully. In another post, I mentioned that all sports fans are hypocrites by nature. I’m sure if the shoe had been on the other foot, it was a defenseless Long Horns WR who was targeted, and Texas had lost that game, then their fans would be equally outraged at the non-call. Moreover, I’m sure that more than a few ND fans on this site kvetching right now would be OK with the non-call in favor of ND.

    Don’t know how much fairer I can get for you, Jr.

    Finally, if you’re not an ND fan, then you’re nothing but a loser troll. Does your mommy know you’re sneaking her laptop down to her basement, where you still live at home? Just make sure you clear the cache on the computer so she doesn’t see you’re trolling gay porn as well!

  14. In addition to the no-call on the helmet-to-helmet late hit on Buechele on the INT, here are more no-calls that favored ND but that ND fans are conveniently ignoring:

    (1) Texas gunner blatantly held on the long punt return. If that call is properly made, that’s a 50-yard change in field position.

    (2) On ND’s TD pass in OT, 3 O-linemen were 4 or more yards downfield while the ball was in the air. Terrible no call.

  15. “Even if the hit on the Texas QB was illegal, two wrongs don’t make a right!”

    Very true. But how about being consistent and complaining about both rather than ignoring the no-call that benefited you?

    “How is that no one during the game brought up the alleged hit on the UT QB? Not the refs, not the booth official, not the two ABC commentators.”

    Is there a point here? The fact that they all missed it doesn’t erase its occurrence from existence.

  16. Definitely targeting he never turned his head to lead with his shoulder watch the replay and nd lost players last year for being called for targeting. And with the next field goal being blocked.your talking about a 7 point swing

  17. Yep, I totally forgot about those games. No recollection whatsoever. Now that you mention it, what’s our DC’s name again? Can’t seem to retain information.

  18. Don’t know why everyone is shocked. Those were ACC refs. The absolute worst in college football. Did everybody forget the Florida State game two years ago and the Clemson game last year. ACC does not like ND and they have made that clear. But they definitely like the money ND brings in!

  19. While we all know there were more than a few missed calls in this game. Irish fans need to accept the fact that if we continue to give up 40 or 50 points we are in for a very long season. Step up D and put someone on their ass. Go Irish.

  20. These D-bag fans of last week’s opponent seem to think they just won the Super Bowl. Although after a five win season, it may feel that way.

  21. Thanks, Damian.

    Trolls are losers. Note that none of them was on here after last year’s game. Wow. What Texas-sized cowards!

    Dave Huffman might of well have publicly castrated Brad Shearer before the 1978 Cotton Bowl. Huffman took Shearer’s manhood in front of a national audience! Shearer went from Outland winner, sure-fire first-round NFL draft pick, to a mid-round, NFL bust. Shearer was never the same after his balls were removed on national TV by ND’s O lineman.

  22. Jake, what an idiot. Are you seriously insinuating that because notre dame is wealthy, Elliot took out his frustration on Hunter? Seriously? First of all, Texas sits at #3 behind Harvard and Yale with 2.5 times the wealth of Notre Dame which somewhere around 11 or 12. Wow. ND is riddled with problems which allowed an unranked, albeit extremely wealthy school, top them in a hardfought contest. Judging from you stupendously idiotic comment, I suspect ND also has some problems with academics as well. Care to compare schools in academics as well? How many top 10 lists has ND on it compared to UT Austin? Anyway dude, come back after nap time and chocolate milk and toss out another ludicrous comment or two. Wow.

  23. SFR,

    Agree on all your points. ABC can hardly be accused of being ND apologists. They would have called the previous hit on Texas targeting if they thought there was something there.

    I’m always amused by fans of other teams “trolling” opposition websites. I don’t recall ever trying to look up unofficial (or even official for that matter) websites of our opponents. I couldn’t be bothered, nor do I have the time. I don’t even really look up other ND websites. I basically come here or the official ND website. I find everything I need right there.

  24. To the Texas trolls: Get a life!

    1) Even if the hit on the Texas QB was illegal, two wrongs don’t make a right!
    2) How is that no one during the game brought up the alleged hit on the UT QB? Not the refs, not the booth official, not the two ABC commentators.
    3)Your double-OT win (big ND comeback included) at home, pales in comparison to the thumping your team took last year in South Bend!
    4) Brad Shearer is still being blocked to death by Dave Huffman!


  25. And it looks like Ron Burgundy, for the first time, came close to posting a thought…but then quickly regressed back to being the irrelevant-lived idiot he is.

  26. peeved: “….This game wasn’t lost because of one missed targeting call.”

    Let’s discuss that.
    First off, it nullified a sure TD, and ND instead ended that series with no points.
    Second left, the play left ND with no veteran receivers, in a comeback situation.
    Third, it changed momentum in Texas’ favor, and got the crowd amped up.
    Fourth, it left an experienced Texas defender in the game who should have been tossed.

    The game was eventually decided in double OT.

    So I think maybe it might have had some impact on the game.

  27. Either targeting is called or we just throw the concern for safety in the trash. If the game cannot address unsafe play then the hell with it. Hunter was not “going for” the ball. He had caught the ball and the play was over. If defenders cannot pull up in such a situation they can’t play. Period. End of story. Coaches: STOP compromising the rules.

  28. People who really think that was a helmet to helmet hit on buechele are idiots helmets don’t even touch go look at the play

  29. I’m a huge ND fan ,but lets face it. This game wasn’t lost because of one missed targeting call .There was bad calls in this game for both sides , mostly against ND due to the lack of leader ship , but we’re used to the haters. From what I saw was Brian Kelly and his crappy play calls that lost this game!!! He can’t even pick a quarter back !! You can tell the whole team is confused so they can’t play like a team . Kelly needs to get his crap together so his team can PLAY LIKE THE CHAMPIONS they can be!!! This lost is on Kelly back 100% !!!!

  30. My problem with the no call targeting penalty is the lack of protecting players. All you hear all offseason is how college football is all about protecting players and making the game safer. Then on national TV a receiver gets knocked out on a helmet to helmet hit, and he’s bleeding from his temple as they finally sit him up. And not a flag or review on site. And yet these same idiots wonder why parents are refusing to sign up their sons for football at an all time record high.

  31. The play immediately after the non-targeting call was the blocked field goal.
    And my point is there was a non-call on the field goal attempt.

  32. A lot of douchebags invading a Notre Dame site. The NCAA is pushing safety. They came up with the targeting infraction. I think they should demand officials apply the penalty fairly. Especially in such an egregious case as this. It doesn’t have anything to do with who won the game. It has everything to do with an institution, NCAA, who claims to champion player safety and, 24 hours plus, apparently has no input into this particular case and enforcement of the penalty.

  33. The problem is when they were checking Hunter out, the anouncers said they should of checking the play out. They weren’t going to call that at Texas. It’s called home field advantage.

  34. It was textbook targeting.
    And the blocked field goal should have been a penalty too. Watch the video from the angle behind the LOS. He leveraged off of a teammate with his right hand. Easy call that wasn’t made.

  35. All you ND haters are such suckass losers. Targeting, concussions and crooked officials will kill college[ and pro] football. Wait till the lawsuits start…

  36. Not a Texas or Notre Dame fan, just an interested bystander… yes the targeting should have been called, it was clearly helmet-to-helmet. But if you check out the earlier play where the Texas qb threw the int. there was targeting also by #90 of ND on the qb that wasn’t called. How would the game have changed if the int was wiped off and Texas got the ball back with a first down?

  37. Hey it was YOUR ACC OFFICIALS out there that didn’t call it not Big XII f you played an actual conference schedule you would know that.

  38. ND was not called for targeting (on a helmet-to-helmet hit to Shane Buechele) on the play in which he threw the INT. One could argue that non-call was egregious since Shane was standing in the pocket and the ND player had complete control of the hit point, whereas the Texas player (DeShon Elliott, I believe] tried to turn his upper body to the left (as they were colliding with each other at full speed) to hit Hunter with his right shoulder instead of his helmet. Both were non-calls, but in the context of the speed of the game, I thought the overall officiating was fair. Brian Kelly has chosen to make an issue of it, which is his right, of course, but I don’t think Elliott intended to target Hunter. Best wishes to Hunter for a full and fast recovery.

  39. Philboyd… You can’t play the toughest every year. Don’t hate. Everyone wants us. Can’t win them all. We are not perfect but you’ll never be ND

  40. Is there an actual flag football league ND can join John. I’ve gotta be honest as I’ve been googling all day and can’t seem to locate. In any event, keep the upbeat chauvinist comments coming.

  41. Did the ACC officials clarify why there was no call on Rochell’s obvious helmet-to-helmet late hit on Buechele on the INT?

    Just curious.

  42. Texas has that 260 pound quarterback that can run but can’t throw. ND was going to have to outscore them. Nothing wrong with that. The non-call screwed ND. Lost a touchdown, a receiver, the brain of a receiver (hopefully not forever), and a penalty, first down, and a probable score on a subsequent play. Plus the a-hole who hit the receiver should have been ejected. Ruined the game for me. Guess the Big 12 thinks Texas deserved a break. The officials should be fired, if not jailed.

  43. Should of been called but that didnt beat them just a little home cooking This defense is pure and simply awful pushed up and down the field hope they fix it

  44. Quit crying like little girls. It’s football. If notre dame wants to play flag football join a league. Cry babies.

  45. Luckily Notre Dame only plays three true road games all year, along with about five cupcakes. It’ll be the typical 9-3 record that is a complete mirage.

  46. So ‘targeting’ is in truth just another completely discretionary chance to serve up some home cooking, exposed last night on national TV as having exactly nothing to do with the boilerplate, feel-good premise of “player safety” whatsoever.

    I’m shocked.

  47. Sad, so many should have beens!
    If I were to go on it would sound like a cry baby.
    We lost to a Texas team that was very prepared. We were not prepared.
    When several defensive players standing at the line of scrimmage unprepared for the Texes offensive plays.
    How often can the defense continue to preform at the level they did and win?

  48. Everyone is talking about the no call but from my eyes it was a clear touchdown . Hunter caught the ball had control and got both feet down. Had this been on the side line it would of been a score. Also no one is talking about the catch that the ball clearly skipped off the ground and the ref called it complete to the Texas receiver and the next play Texas scores. This happened in the second quarter when they went up by 14. Also it gave them the first down when it should of been a 4th and Notre Dame ball. I hate to blame the refs but this clearly is something us Irish fans won’t forgive. We need to win out to even be in the national championship hopes.

  49. Drew you are a idiot. Must be a longhorn. Reguardless who is playing who, players cannot obviously target another player out of frustration. Just because Notre Dame is wealthy doesn’t mean that hit was called for, or legal on the football feild.

  50. Road team non call , simple as that. Just read Redfields statement . This guy is completely clueless. Sound like someone who has not taken any responsibility for anything, ever . His ass had been kissed for ever . Good bye go-pher.

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