NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Georgia finally felt the wrath of NCAA’s new targeting rule Saturday — twice.
Defensive end Ray Drew was flagged for the personal-foul penalty early in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. The junior hit quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels high in the head-and-neck area with his forearms at the end of a first-down completion at the 11:19 mark. That’s a violation of the rule for initiating contact to the head or neck of a defenseless player.
After video review — which is standard operating procedure on such fouls — the automatic-disqualification provision of the penalty stood up, and Drew was escorted from the field of play. The Commodores went on to score a 3-yard touchdown off a fake field-goal play to take a 14-10 lead.
“I don’t have a response to it,” Drew said after the game. “I don’t even know what was behind it or what they thought I did. I was surprised, but you have to respect the ref’s call. I’m going to go back and look at it and see what I have to do to not let it happen again.”
The call on Drew was costly in that the Bulldogs’ lost their leading pass rusher for the game in the first half. But the one that came later on linebacker Ramik Wilson may have cost Georgia the game.
Georgia led 27-14 with 13:36 remaining in the game when the Commodores faced fourth-and-4 at the Bulldogs’ 30-yard line. Wilson broke up a pass for Vanderbilt’s Jonathan Krause over the middle on what appeared to be a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. But a late flag came in from a side judge, and Georgia was penalized again for the targeting rule. The video replay overturned the automatic ejection and allowed Wilson to stay in the game. But Vanderbilt’s drive was sustained, and the Commodores went on to score a touchdown and that made it six-point game.
Georgia coach Mark Richt was careful not to violate the SEC coaches’ policy not to criticize officiating.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t say anything horrendous about the officiating today,” Richt said. “I’m not going to do that.”
But Georgia’s players weren’t afraid to share their feelings on the subject.
“Some bad officiating,” said junior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who had two sacks in the game. “… I’m not trying to say much, but the whole call is a BS call.”
Said junior safety Corey Moore: “That was a messed-up call (on Wilson). You can clearly see he didn’t use his helmet, didn’t target the dude. He made a correct tackle, and that just really upset me because that was a big part of the game. … It shouldn’t have even been a penalty.”
Moore said the targeting rule has put defense at a tremendous disadvantage.
“It’s like an extra man for the offense,” he said. “Sometimes you’re timid as a tackler. You can’t go in there and tackle like you want to because of the rule. It’s a nagging rule, and I think it needs to be changed.”
The Bulldogs won’t have to be without Drew for the Florida game in two weeks in Jacksonville. Had the penalty occurred in the second half, Drew would have had to sit out the first half of the next game.
More injury concerns: Two more starters went down with injuries Saturday. Junior wide receiver Chris Conley went down with a right-ankle injury on the final play of the game. Richt didn’t immediately know how serious the injury was, but Conley left the stadium on crutches.
“That’s never a good sign,” Richt said.
Richt also didn’t know the status of starting strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. He left the game with a right foot injury at the 9:17 mark of the second quarter and did not return.
Murray sets SEC record: Senior quarterback Aaron Murray set the SEC record for total offense in a career on a 7-yard pass to senior tight end Arthur Lynch in the first quarter. He entered the game needing 30 yards to pass Florida’s Tim Tebow (12,232). Murray finished 16-for-28 for 114 yards and had 10 rushing yards, including two touchdowns. His career total offense is 12,327 yards.
Etc.: Freshman cornerback Shaq Wiggins and junior safety Corey Moore each had their first career interceptions. Wiggins’ returned his 39 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter. … Sophomore John Theus started at right tackle, and junior Chris Mayes started at nose tackle.