Saturday's game between the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan Wolverines was expected to be a hard-hitting affair that excited fans of both teams. This was partially accurate considering there were plenty of big hits, but two plays by Wisconsin defenders in the third quarter were a bit too hard and resulted in targeting penalties and ejections.
The second hit, delivered by safety Reggie Pearson, was a brutal blow to the head of backup quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, resulting in a concussion. McCaffrey had originally entered the game in relief of starter Shea Patterson, but his stint on the field only lasted three completions before Pearson ended his day.
As expected, Pearson was ejected by the officials by the obvious targeting penalty, but the reaction of the crowd surprised many. Instead of simply accepting the punishment and moving on to the next play, the Wisconsin fans booed the referees.
Between the brutal hit by Pearson and the reaction of the fans, there was no surprise that many on Twitter were outraged over this sequence of events during the 35-14 rout. They expected better play from the defense, as well as better judgment by the fans.
Whenever a crucial call is made by the referee, fans of the home team tend to boo. It doesn't matter if the penalty is justified or not, they simply don't agree and want those in stripes to hear their displeasure. It's a common occurrence in college stadiums around the country, but there are certain moments in which the fans could benefit from remaining quiet.
This game was over a long time ago. But these Wisconsin fans booing that second targeting ejection... not a great look. That was the dirtiest hit I’ve ever seen in a college football game. Gross.— Mike Cappelletti (@MrCappelletti) September 21, 2019
After examining the hit on Dylan McCaffrey, the common response was that this play certainly fit the description of targeting. Intentional or not, they felt that Reggie Pearson committed a costly error and should have been ejected. However, many others vehemently disagreed with that assessment and were far more angry at the referees and college football in general.
college football is broken if that’s a penalty, let alone an ejection, on the wisconsin defender— Hayden Brown (@yaboybap) September 21, 2019
Was the targeting call against Reggie Pearson correct? Many fans that believe so while others view the penalty as a critical mistake. Regardless of whether it was correct or not, many simply see this as an opportunity for the coach to pull the young safety aside and help him improve his tactics on the field.
No reason for that. I hope the coaches pull him aside this week and make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.— Jason Vierck (@jmviers) September 21, 2019
In the NCAA, targeting an opposing player brings a punishment of ejection for the remainder of the game and missing the first half of the next. However, certain fans would like to see more severe repercussions when applicable. Maybe a full-game suspension, or possibly two if the play warranted. Wisconsin's Reggie Pearson may not have intended to injury Dylan McCaffrey, but the football fans would prefer to see him on the sideline during an upcoming game.
There’s the type of targeting where you roll your eyes... then there’s the kind Wisconsin just pulled. That shouldn’t just be an ejection; that should be a full-game suspension— Nick Morgan (@_nsmorgan) September 21, 2019
Love or hate the targeting penalty, many simply couldn't believe the reaction from those in attendance at the game. Why would they boo the penalty, especially after McCaffrey suffered a concussion? Many felt this decision truly painted the university and its fanbase in a bad light.
Always thought fan bases were funny but the booing by the Wisconsin fans after the 2nd ejection was embarrassing. You stay classy Camp Randall.— Buckeye Steve (@smathews19) September 21, 2019
One of the more fascinating aspects of social media is the ability of some fans to toe the line. It's better to split the aisle than it is to side with one side or the other. Many fans proved this point when they tried to point out how both sides could be correct in their assessment's of the targeting penalty and subsequent ejection.
Let me first say, by rule, the call was correct, but that’s a terrible targeting ejection in general. Wisconsin’s defensive player was committed to the tackle before Michigan’s QB even slid. Impossible for the player to change his body position. #TerribleHorrible— Gus (@gus4the2bus) September 21, 2019
Whether the fans on Twitter loved or hated Wisconsin certainly played a role in the reactions to this play, but many simply couldn't believe that this hit had happened. They simply were outraged over Pearson making the hit and wanted to see him punished to the full extent that the NCAA is allowed.
That Pearson Jr hit in the Wisconsin-Michigan game was beyond dirty. He should be ashamed and so should the UW fans in the stadium right now. Ejection isn’t enough for that.— Andrew Rogers (@BIGANDER) September 21, 2019
Technology is wonderful in instances such as these. With the power of slow motion, the fans and analysts alike can watch every second of the play in detail to determine if there was a basis for the ejection. Many fans did just that and concluded that Reggie Pearson could have avoided this hit to McCaffrey's head. They just believe that he chose not to.
Clearly lowered the head at the latest possible moment, going straight for the runners head. This is textbook Targeting. Even lowers his trajectory to meet the head. Dirty play, pure and simple.— Hushpook (@hushpook) September 22, 2019
While the overwhelming response to this play was outrage at the Wisconsin player and the fanbase, there were some other surprising takes. A vocal minority believed that this hit was legal and thought that it should not have warranted an ejection from the game.
I don’t see the problem it wasn’t helmet to helmet he lowered his shoulder as he’s been taught and hit the runner rather qb or not definitely not a dirty play and if it was a rb there wouldn’t even have been a flag— BUILTBYGOD_BBG (@Builtbygod_bbg) September 21, 2019
Having the ability to slow a replay down can be very beneficial at times, it does have its drawbacks. This targeting penalty is a very fitting example considering that at full speed, it appears to many that Pearson is targeting McCaffrey's helmet and neck area. In slow motion, however, there can be an argument that the Wisconsin defender was trying to avoid this collision at the last moment. Either way, slow-motion certainly led to multiple arguments on social media.
In slow motion it appears he is trying to avoid a direct hit with a glancing blow. Too many second guessers on here who don’t understand at full speed sometimes these types of hits are unavoidable.— Mark Meddings (@MeddingsMark1) September 21, 2019