- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Rashad appeared to intentionally nail Vernon during a substitution in the second quarter Saturday night. Head linesman Tyrone Davis and side judge Angie Bartis have been suspended one game for missing the call.
"I want to apologize to Duke's Conner Vernon for running into him during Saturday's game," Rashad said in a statement. "I was in a hurry to get on the field and focused on where I was going. I have been playing football for most of my life and I have never been involved in that type of incident. I did not mean to run into him and I'm glad he was not hurt. He's a great receiver and I wish him the best."
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said he was "speechless" about what happened, while North Carolina coach Larry Fedora defended Rashad during his weekly news conference Monday.
"I promise (you), there was none of, 'Hey, let me run into this guy and that will stop the play before it gets started,'" Fedora said. "There was no malice at all."
UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham was "disappointed" with Rashad's suspension.
"I spoke to Shakeel in the locker room after the game and he was obviously upset about making contact, but insisted that it was unintentional and a result of rushing to get on the field as quickly he could," Cunningham said in a release. "We are disappointed with the decision to suspend him for a game. I don't understand how the conference can suspend a player who was involved in such an unusual play without speaking to him."
In addition, the entire officiating crew in the Florida State-Miami game will receive letters of reprimand, while crew chief and referee David Epperley has been suspended for one game for failure to properly administer the 10-second runoff rule at the end of the first half.
Sam Houston State linebacker Darius Taylor and Southeastern Louisiana safety Kevin Roberts were also suspended Monday, as the Southland Conference handed down the bans for hits to the head or neck area of defenseless players.
The league said that both players would sit out Saturday. Sam Houston plays at Lamar, and Southeastern Louisiana is home against Central Arkansas in a battle of conference leaders.
Sam Houston State officials said Taylor's suspension was for a hit on a Nicholls State receiver in a 41-0 Sam Houston win Oct. 13. The school said no penalty flag was thrown.
Roberts' suspension was for a hit in Southeastern Louisiana's 27-22 victory against Northwestern State on Oct. 13.
Southland officials said the suspensions came after a review by the league's executive committee.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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