Missouri football's Andrew Wilson suspended for violating new targeting rule

Sunday, September 8, 2013 | 7:48 p.m. CDT; updated 1:20 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 24, 2013

COLUMBIA — Missouri has its first victim of college football's new targeting rule. 

In the third quarter of Saturday's game, Toledo wide receiver Bernard Reedy attempted a catch over the middle of the field. As the ball bounced off Reedy's hands, Wilson hit him in the head with his forearm. A late flag was thrown and boos rained down from the stands at Memorial Stadium.

The call: targeting. The consequence: Wilson was ejected from the game and will be suspended for the first half of Missouri's Sept. 21 game at Indiana. Missouri went on to win 38-23.

Wilson waited on the sidelines after the hit, hoping the officials would review the video and have a change of heart about the call. That didn't happen, and there is no appeal process for the suspension.

“Bottom line is you can’t hit above the shoulders,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “You can’t hit near the shoulder line, you can’t do it. He’s on my team. He’s a great kid. He would never try to hurt anybody, but we have to protect the game. We’ve got to protect kids.”

The targeting rule is simple. A defensive player can not hit a defenseless receiver in the head with any part of his body, including the forearm. Seven defensive players were ejected in the first week of the college football season for targeting, and Wilson was the first Missouri player to get called for the penalty.

Wilson wasn't made available to the media after the game, but team spokesman Chad Moller said Wilson was upset by the call. 

Throughout fall camp, Pinkel stressed the importance of educating his players about the rule to avoid ejections during the regular season. The coaching staff sent tapes of hits in practice to the league office to determine what is considered targeting. But defensive end Kony Ealy said the physicality in practice was the same.

"We didn't do anything different," Ealy said. "They overemphasized it a lot."

Maybe it was overemphasized, but the rule still came back to haunt the Tigers. Missouri will now be without one of its defensive captains for the first half against Indiana. Ealy wasn't surprised that one of the biggest hitters on the defense got flagged on Saturday.

"He’s a great person to get big hits and make big plays like that," Ealy said. "It was bound to happen for him to get caught on one of those even though I didn’t see him lowering his head or targeting, I saw a physical wrap up, good hit."

The fans booed, Wilson was upset, and Wilson's teammates thought he made a good hit. But the rule isn't going anywhere, and Missouri will have to adjust.

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