Mailbag: Blackmon and Martin suspensions

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
3:00
PM ET
First off, I got a lot of e-mails covering a lot of different aspects of the Justin Blackmon suspension, but I'll just offer my general thoughts instead of answering 15 different questions:

My first big problem with all this is, it doesn't sound like enough people are differentiating between what Blackmon actually did and the "drunk driving" connotations that come with the initials "DUI." Blackmon traveled out of state on a game week. Not a great decision, but I highly doubt he's the only guy on the team to ever do that; it's my understanding that his trip was not explicitly in violation of team rules. Blackmon drank underage. Mistake, obviously, and illegal, but nothing uncommon to college or even college football teams. He waited until after 3 a.m. to make a 4.5-hour drive home. Definitely a bad decision, but not illegal on its own, minus the alcohol that was apparently in his system, although the exact wording of the police's statement leaves that up to interpretation. Making that drive at 92 mph, 32 miles above the speed limit, is both reckless and illegal.

But none of that equals "drunk driving." According to the police, there was a field sobriety test conducted and it found a "detectable" amount of alcohol on Blackmon. That adds up to a minor in possession charge in most states and a speeding ticket. I can think of at least three starting quarterbacks in football right now who have public intoxication charges on their records, a more serious charge, and that's just off the top of my head. It also includes at least one player who received serious Heisman buzz earlier in the year. Based on the police's actions, Blackmon was well below the legal limit, but in Texas, that's a DUI if you're under 21. If Blackmon was actually above the legal limit, I'm pretty certain he'd be facing a lot more than a three-digit fine.

Based on most of the e-mails I got throughout the week, it seems like not everyone understands that. I don't know Blackmon, but by all accounts, this is the first mistake by an otherwise upstanding student-athlete. My guess is, he didn't know the law in Texas, which is understandable, because before this week, I didn't either. And I live in Texas. I'm not going to defend any of the bad decisions, but I'll defend him against some of the e-mailers who wrote in claiming he got off too easy.

It was a series of decisions I'm sure he regrets, but he's taken his suspension, impressively took a few questions from the media only days after being arrested, and the team has moved on. I suggest everyone else do the same, and not do so with the notion of Blackmon as a "drunk driver." I'm not at all trying to excuse what he did; it was dangerous and against the law, but I got the sense this week that not enough people understood what he did.

This incident shouldn't have any effect on voters' minds if they're voting for the Heisman, Biletnikoff, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, or any other various awards Blackmon might be up for in December. Gundy (who handled the entire situation really, really well, by the way) made the right call in suspending him, but this one speed bump isn't significant enough to sully an otherwise remarkable season on the field.


Melissa in Lincoln, Neb., asks: What do you think about the suspension of Martin for Nebraska. Can the league really pick and choose which helmet to helmet gets a suspension?

David Ubben: There's some stuff you can debate on this and there's some you can't. First off, that hit was illegal. Period. I don't care if he "led with his shoulder" or not. It looks better from the angle from behind, but his helmet clearly hits Andrew Hudson's helmet first, and he followed through with his body and de-cleated him. You're in denial if you can't see the helmet-to-helmet contact on the replay from the angle the shows the hit from the front.

The suspension is certainly up for debate. I got plenty of questions on Twitter throughout the week and in my mailbag about why he got suspended and others with helmet-to-helmet hits didn't. My answer: I have no idea, because the people making those decisions haven't told us. I didn't expect the Big 12 to be very transparent about this, but it doesn't change the fact that I'd like them to be. A league spokesman explained some of the decision-making process to the Omaha World-Herald, but did not comment on the decision itself.

Two weeks ago, Kansas Isiah Barfield definitely hit Kansas State's Tramaine Thompson helmet-to-helmet. He wasn't suspended. Oklahoma safety Quinton Carter got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit in this weekend's game against Missouri and he wasn't suspended, though that hit was from behind, if my memory serves correctly.

Why is Martin suspended? Maybe the Big 12 has a good reason. There's no doubt in my mind the NFL's recent focus on helmet-to-helmet hits played a huge factor. But based on the concise release they sent to the media, there are plenty of other hits that qualify under the criteria stated by the league. He's the first player in the almost two-year history of the rule to be suspended because of a hit, but there's no way he's the first to make a helmet-to-helmet hit like that in that span. It wasn't a "cheap shot" and he wasn't intentionally trying to hit Hudson in the head, even though he definitely did hit him in the head.

I just wish we knew what the difference was.

I'm not going to rip the Big 12's decision on this, but I'm not going to defend it, either. It's an illegal hit. I feel strongly about that. They're within their right to suspend Martin if they see fit. But there's a lot of illegal hits happening. Not everybody is getting suspended. Why? I have no idea, and if the Big 12 had planned on issuing an explanation, we'd have heard it by now.


Don Bowers in Oklahoma City, Okla., asks: Is this one of the questions you are going to pick for your totally awesome blog so I can brag to my friends how cool it is to get a question on here?

DU: Nope.


Joe in Waco, Texas asks: If Baylor can pull off the win this weekend, (I know, Texas will be playing with a purpose and Baylor hasn't won 3 straight all year) could it be the game that finally puts RG3 on the same stage as T-Magic and Newton?

DU: You bring up an interesting point. First off, Robert Griffin III is pretty clearly a better overall quarterback (Note: As a runner, I'd go with T-Magic) at this point than Taylor Martinez, but let's take a look at Griffin's numbers vs. Newton's.

Passing:
  • Griffin: 180-270 (66.7 percent), 2,373 yards, 18 TD, 4 INT. Rating: 159.53
  • Newton: 90-138 (65.2 percent), 1,364 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT. Rating: 172.08
Rushing:
  • Griffin: 76 car, 374 yards (5.1 avg). 6 TD
  • Newton: 157 car, 1,077 yards (6.9 avg). 14 TD

It's pretty obvious that while Griffin is a great player, the impact of what Newton is doing this year is greater than what Griffin has done, and Newton is doing it for an undefeated, No. 1 team against an SEC schedule featuring a handful of ranked teams.

Griffin is a great player who's near the top of my ballot for Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, but there's a reason why all 15 of our ESPN Heisman Watch first-place votes went to Newton. Tell the SEC linebackers Newton is trucking on a regular basis that the 250-pounder is all hype.


Wyatt in Nebraska asks: Which big 12 players do you think would make the best body guards?

DU: Apparently I might need a couple after picking against the Huskers this week. I've got calls placed in to Colorado's Nate Solder (6-foot-9, 310 pounds) and Baylor's Robert T. Griffin (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) to tag along with me to Lincoln this weekend.


Barry in Houston asks: David,I just wanted your opinion on the act of tearing down goalposts. I ask because it seems that there is somewhat of a double standard that goes on here in particular, Texas Tech was known for a few years for rushing the field and tearing down goalposts, this got them labeled 'classless clowns' in the media. It even got to the point where law enforcement was brought into home games to keep it from happening. I remember reading several articles in the Houston area about how atrocious this behavior was and how it had no place in college football. The other day I was on here and the Mizzou 'tradition' of tearing down the goalposts and marching them through town was depicted as some sort of magical experience that every college football fan should experience. How is there such a difference in the schools actions? Why are they perceived so differently? Just wondering about your thoughts here.

DU: There's a time and place for it. I think you're overreacting on the "classless clowns" comment that I bet few people have any memory of. Texas Tech doesn't have that reputation for field-storming as far as I know. There's a time to rush the field. Beating a team with one win is not it (ahem, Colorado), unless you haven't won a game in more than a year. Qualifying for a bowl game for the first time in 15 years is definitely appropriate. Beating a No. 1 team, especially the same team that your program hasn't beaten in more than a decade, the same team that beat you to keep you out of the national title game is an appropriate time to do it. Anybody who criticizes the actual act is an oversensitive curmudgeon who needs to lighten up. There are definitely times to do it. Missouri and Baylor took advantage of their opportunities.

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