HOUMA — Ed Orgeron said he wants officials to be "fair" and "consistent" when it comes to implementing the NCAA's new targeting and overtime rules.
An NCAA panel approved the new rules on April 23 — changes that almost certainly came in response to instances that occurred during LSU's 2018 football season.
Starting in the 2019 season, there will be a higher standard for reviewing targeting penalties, and teams will run alternating two-point plays once a game reaches a fifth overtime, instead of starting another drive at the opponent's 25.
When targeting penalties are reviewed under the new rules, officials must confirm that all the elements of targeting are present, and "if any element of targeting cannot be confirmed," the rule states, "the replay official will overturn the targeting foul."
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The new rules also state that players who commits three targeting fouls in the same season "are subject to a one-game suspension" from the team's next game.
Four LSU players were ejected for targeting in 2018, and a fan outrage that crossed the country followed the controversial ejection of All-American inside linebacker Devin White from the Mississippi State game, which meant he would miss the first half of the top three matchup against then-No. 1 Alabama.
The controversy prompted the "Free Devin White" movement that raised more than $6,200 to put billboards voicing fan outrage near the Southeastern Conference headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.
"I just want them to call it fair," Orgeron said at the LSU Coaches Caravan at the Houma Walk-On's on Monday night. "Be consistent."
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Numerous fans took to social media throughout the season to voice their belief that targeting calls were not being called consistently.
Most post short videos that showed what looked like Alabama players getting away with targeting calls, such as when Crimson Tide inside linebacker Mack Wilson appeared to make helmet-to-helmet contact with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the 2019 College Football Playoff national championship.
"That could have been called for helmet-to-helmet targeting," ESPN broadcaster Chris Fowler said in the telecast. "It wasn't."
Helmet to helmet clearly from Moses on Lawrence. So blatant, no call. #Lsu would have had another player tossed for targeting. #FreeDevinWhite #FreeDelpit #FreePhillips @DevinWhite__40 @jacobphillips_1 @showtime9_ @LSUfootball #Clemson #Bama #Alabama #NationalChampionship @espn pic.twitter.com/u0VCbTNQCg— Greg Stahlnecker (@olegreg0411) January 8, 2019
LSU inside linebacker Jacob Phillips was ejected twice in the 2018 season — in the first half against Southeastern and in overtime against Texas A&M, and strong safety Grant Delpit was ejected from the Fiesta Bowl in what appeared to be incidental targeting.
"It was inconsistent," Orgeron said Monday night.
Orgeron was one of the more vocal coaches advocating for a change to the NCAA's targeting rule, calling White's ejection "very unfair" at the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club luncheon in October.
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The NCAA Football Rules Committee, led by Stanford coach David Shaw, proposed the changes on March 1, and a little more than a month later, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved the change.
The full definition of targeting remains the same, per the NCAA rulebook, which includes when there is a "defenseless player," who is struck by a player who makes "forcible contact in the head or neck area."
"I think some of the ways that the rule was written last year, it kind of hurt us," LSU deep snapper Blake Ferguson said in March, when the rules were proposed. Ferguson serves as the Chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council. "Obviously, the Devin (White) issue is one that got a lot of publicity; but the way that rule was written, it was targeting. But in my opinion, he wasn't leading with his head with the intent to injure another player."
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As for the new overtime rules, Ferguson said he'd "rather not" play a game that lasts seven overtimes, like when LSU lost 74-72 at Texas A&M in the 2018 regular-season finale, a game that lasted 4 hours, 53 minutes and included a total of 197 plays — 50 in overtime.
"I can't tell you how many people I had coming up to me after the seven-overtime game saying, 'Man, they shouldn't have let y'all play that long, it's a medical issue,' " Ferguson said.
Orgeron said forcing teams to alternate two-point attempts starting in the fifth overtime "obviously shortens the game up a little bit, which is fair for the players," but it then "makes sense to have more of a variety of two-point plays."
However, the two-point conversion, which starts at the opponent's 3, Ferguson said, limits some offenses.
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"Teams that are very run-heavy or very pass-heavy are at a disadvantage," he said. "And the teams that are most balanced and are good at running the ball vertically as well as passing the ball in different spots around the field are going to be in the advantage in that situation."
LSU was 2 of 6 in its two-point conversion attempts in 2018, including going 2 of 4 against Texas A&M.
"I think hopefully it will clean up some of the long games we have," Ferguson said, "because we don't want to do that again."
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