Michigan entered Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl against TCU as a significant favorite to advance to the College Football Playoff national championship game. Then the Wolverines had their dreams dashed with a 51-45 loss that ended in controversial fashion.
Facing a fourth-and-long in the closing seconds, Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy fumbled the snap, triggering a mad scramble that ended with a short gain — but also potential targeting by the Horned Frogs.
MORE: Fiesta Bowl officials draw ire after Michigan touchdown overturned
After review, the call on the field of no targeting stood, ultimately locking the game up for TCU and eliminating Michigan.
HE HAS TROUBLE WITH THE SNAP pic.twitter.com/aGZ7JAN1qc
— no context college football (@nocontextcfb) January 1, 2023
Michigan had its share of struggles throughout the game. McCarthy threw two pick-sixes and there were myriad defensive lapses. But a targeting call would have kept their last-gasp drive going.
The decision not to call it after a review befuddled people who thought the crew engaged in situational officiating.
MORE: Horned Frogs stun Wolverines. punch ticket to national championship in instant classic
What is targeting?
College football implemented the tageting rule to protect players from head trauma and establish big repercussions for players who compromise other players’ safety.
According to the NCAA rulebook: “No player shall initiate contact and target an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul.”
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Players also can’t launch themselves at opponents or hit defenseless players.
Why wasn’t TCU called for targeting?
This is what some people are trying to figure out.
“Replay determined no targeting at the end of the #FiestaBowl. The “crown” was re-defined at the beginning of the season to be more narrow – this hit was likely too much on the side of the helmet for replay to add foul,” the poster wrote.
A different angle of the hit:
This play at the end of the 4th quarter was reviewed and the play was not called for targeting. pic.twitter.com/fzVUgISaag
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) January 1, 2023
Football world reacts
Much of the football world was tuned into this game, which means opinions were flying. Those who played at the college or NFL level seemed split about whether targeting should have been called. Analysts thought the situation influenced the officials’ decision to swallow the whistle.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 1, 2023
No way they can call that in this moment 🤣🤣
— Patrick Mahomes II (@PatrickMahomes) January 1, 2023
Replay in CFB is broken & Targeting foul is equally broken!
– Clearly a TD in first half
– 100% targeting (and I hate targeting) at end
Officiating in CFB needs an overhaul…No reason for every conference to have their own officials…Should have a national officiating base
— Joel Klatt (@joelklatt) January 1, 2023
That’s targeting, I told you TCU would bend reality and warp the fragile fibers of your mind
— BUM CHILLUPS AKA SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) January 1, 2023
That would have been a flag for targeting in a regular season game 14 billion times out of 14 billion
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 1, 2023
College football running itself like the NHL here. That was rulebook targeting but let us not pretend this was the first time that refs simply decided they weren’t really in the mood to get a police escort out of a building
— Alex Kirshner (@alex_kirshner) January 1, 2023
Too many mistakes to pin UM’s loss on the refs, but if that’s not targeting — as dangerous a play, on the back of Loveland’s head and neck, as there is — then nothing is.
— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) January 1, 2023
One prominent former player — albeit with a rooting interest — wanted a call:
I’ve seen a lot of targeting calls in college football that i disagree with and have said so.. of the targeting calls upheld that sure looked like one.. anyhow congrats TCU #Goblue
— Charles Woodson (@CharlesWoodson) January 1, 2023
This sequence will help to fuel another offseason of debate about what is and isn’t targeting. All we know now for sure is that TCU will be playing for the national championship on Jan. 9.