There were a number of questionable calls (that went against both teams) during Saturday’s night’s SEC Championship Game. A tipped pass here, a roughing the passer there. But one call is still stirring emotions on Tuesday morning… and still causing a number of fans to email a specific YouTube clip to the MrSEC inbox.
In Alabama’s 32-28 win over Georgia, Tide defensive lineman Quinton Dial delivered what was clearly a blow to the head of Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray. But Murray wasn’t in the pocket as a passer. He was just another guy on the field after tossing an interception. Let’s just say Murray didn’t keep his head on a swivel:
As you can see, there was clearly helmet-to-helmet contact on the play and SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw admitted yesterday that a flag should have been thrown (assuming an official saw the hit). “We missed the call,” Shaw said.
According to Dial’s teammate Robert Lester, the senior lineman has been getting “a lot of heat from outside sources.” Lester commented that the hit was just a part of football and you can bet Mike Slive won’t be thrilled to read the comments that follow after he’s suspended several players over the course of the last two years for illegal helmet-to-helmet or above-the-shoulder hits to defenseless players:
“I feel like it’s all a part of football. Players take shots at us, we take shots at players. It’s all football. It’s a physical sport. If you can got on the field and not get hit, more power to you. That’s what football is about, hitting somebody, especially if you play defense.”
True enough. But hitting someone legally is a requirement of the NCAA rule book and the SEC’s commissioner has been enforcing that call in especially egregious cases.
So, will Slive suspend Dial for Alabama’s next game — the BCS Championship Game with Notre Dame? Shaw didn’t rule it out yesterday:
“As you’ve noticed, Commissioner has been vigilant on this and he did it when warranted and didn’t when it wasn’t. I’m not sure the upcoming opponent is ever a condition in the decision. I think it’s more based on the facts in the play…
By rule, you can’t hit a defenseless player above the shoulders. What the determination needs to be is was this a defenseless player and was contact initiated above the shoulders? When we go through video review of it, that’s what we’ll have to determine. And then… as you break it down, did he lead with the head or lead with the shoulder? From game action, it was a personal foul regardless of how we break it down frame by frame.”
Only, it wasn’t called as a personal foul on the field.
As for whether or not the hit will result in suspension, there’s little question that contact initiated above the shoulders. Dial also clearly led with his head and not his shoulder.
But was Murray defenseless? When Slive has suspended players in the past, it has been for hits against receivers and punt returners who were trying to catch passes. Murray clearly had his eyes on the interception return, but is that a question of a player being defenseless or just unaware of his surroundings?
That could be a point the league office debates while determining its action. If Murray’s “job” on the play was to catch a football and he got popped, it’s likely Dial would be suspended. But Murray was simply not paying attention and the league may rule that while he didn’t see the hit coming, he was not literally “defenseless.”
That’s not our view, mind you. We at MrSEC.com believe it was an unnecessary shot at an opposing quarterback — a protected species — and that Slive should hand Dial a one-game suspension.
The trouble is, Slive might not want to sit someone for a national title bout. That’s a rare opportunity for a player (if you don’t play at Alabama).
Georgia AD Greg McGarity said he also missed the play during live action and that he was “stunned” when he viewed the hit on the internet. “It is definitely a play we will submit for review, but I’m sure that’s already being done,” he said. “I’m anxious to see what (Slive) says about it…. This is a case where it could have had serious implications on Aaron, not only in that game but in future games.”
You ca bet a lot of people in Tuscaloosa and South Bend are anxious to hear the commissioner’s ruling as well.
Dial has played in 12 of the Tide’s 13 games this season. He’s recorded 21 total tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, and 1.5 sacks. He also has four quarterback hurries.