Was McDonald's suspension warranted?
WeAreSC's panel discusses, well, disagrees with, the Pac-12's ruling on USC's safety
LOS ANGELES -- In this week's installment of The Roundtable, WeAreSC's panelists discuss the first-half suspension of USC junior safety T.J. McDonald for Friday's game against Colorado.
Garry Paskwietz: I don't think it was a proper outcome. I understand the fact that it was a bang-bang play, one that was hard for the official to make on the spot. I can even understand the emotional reaction to such a punishing hit. I just don't happen to agree with the penalty that was called and I definitely don't think a suspension was warranted.
I guess my main question to the official or conference administrators who chose to sit McDonald is, "What was he supposed to do differently?" He led with his shoulder and at the time he went into hit mode his target was not the head area of the receiver. As he began to go in for the hit, however, the receiver's body went down. The target moved on McDonald and I don't think he should be held responsible for the contact to the head.
Steve Bisheff: I think T.J. McDonald deserved to be penalized, but I'm not sure he deserved the suspension. The fact he had been previously penalized for this kind of hit certainly hurt him. But this time it was such a bang-bang play, it was difficult to believe he was trying to harm the opposing player. McDonald was the second tackler on the play, and he had no idea the Cardinal player would get straightened up like that.
When you're coming in at full speed to complete a play, I don't think it's possible to stop and analyze the situation. He didn't go for the head. He hit him with his shoulder. It wasn't like the target was indefensible when he came up to him. The fact he turned and was exposed like that was simply unfortunate for everyone involved. I know the Pac-12 office is trying to be strong about this kind of thing, but the more I've watched the replay, the more I believe McDonald wasn't entirely at fault.
Greg Katz: I thought the official who made the call was giving Stanford the benefit of the doubt because there was so much at stake nationally and in the Pac-12. I felt it was a highly questionable call. What I also find disturbing about the call was that if the call wasn't made Stanford would have had another chance on fourth down to keep the drive going. The call changed the complexion of the game and the drive. While the call didn't actually decide the game, it gave Andrew Luck another chance, and he is too good to be afforded that window of opportunity.
Given McDonald's history with this type of unsportsmanlike call, it was not surprising to me that the Pac-12 issued a next-game penalty. I honestly don't think, given the bang-bang nature of the play and the importance of the moment, T.J. had any intention of creating a penalty to put his team in jeopardy. He was just reacting on instinct. I've seen more obvious hits flagged this season. This alleged penalty was too close to call and shouldn't have been administered.
Kyle Williams: I look at the penalty a few different ways. Seeing the hit live at the game, you couldn't help but to think it was a personal foul. The way the Stanford receiver fell and how hard McDonald hit him, the refs just reacted, not fully comprehending what they saw. After watching the replay, you can clearly see that T.J. hit the receiver with his shoulder pads and the fact that he stumbled after dropping the ball took away T.J.'s target, forcing him to hit Owusu in the head.
About the suspension: When was the last time you heard of a player being suspended for half a game? I've heard of them being suspended for the whole game, but never quarters. My take on this is that after reviewing the play they can clearly see he wasn't leading with his head and there wasn't any helmet-to-helmet contact. However, because T.J. has been warned before about this, they feel that they have to make an example out of him.
I used to be on the offensive side of the ball, so it's in my nature to dislike or disagree with anything or anybody on defense, but this rule is taking away from football on every level. Players know what they are getting themselves into when they strap on their helmets and step onto the field. Andrew Luck is pretty smart and understands defenses, so knowing that one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the country is in deep coverage and has a clear shot on his receiver with the route that was run, why would Luck throw him the ball? I'm all for safe play on the football field, but part of the job for a safety is making big hits on receivers, knocking the ball out when his corners need help. If you look at some of the great safeties in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of the things that got them there was their ability to hit and to hit hard.