Clarifying Big Ten Championship Third-Quarter Analysis

There have been several comments, positive and negative about the way we called the hit on Wisconsin cornerback, Devin Smith in the third quarter of the Big Ten Championship game on FOX Sports. What I first want to make perfectly clear is that neither Gus Johnson nor I revel in a hurt player; I did not and will not ever celebrate a player injury. If you go back to that point in the game, you’ll hear me say, “The best part of the play right there is that Devin is up and they got him over to the bench and are working on him.”
 
Now, onto what happened on the field and how it corresponds to the rules. Nebraska’s Kenny Bell was a pursuing tackler within a couple of yards of the ball — it wasn’t away from the ball. It was toward the runner. He never left his feet and as FOX’s official’s analyst, Mike Pereira said, it was shoulder-to-shoulder, but officials are staunch in their training in today’s game to call any blind-side tackle. I get that. I simply believe that based on the many angles that we had the benefit of watching, it was a good hit. I assure you, our crew watched that play time-and-again because we wanted to make the most accurate analysis possible.
 
I respect every one of you for your opinions, as I hope you will mine, and other analysts who calls games. We don’t expect everyone to agree with what we say. We realize that people are passionate about the game and the voices that deliver calls to you. When it comes down to it, as my partner Gus eluded last night, this is a brutal game with human beings executing and taking the hits. In no way did or will we ever glamorize a defenseless player. We did not celebrate a young man lying on the turf.”   (c) Charles Davis
 
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16 Responses to “Clarifying Big Ten Championship Third-Quarter Analysis”

  1. avatar
    Boyd Cameron

    Dec 3rd, 2012 :

    I was really glad you guys pointed this out and I don’t think anyone watching, who wasn’t a Wisconsin fan, thought you were celebrating a player’s injury.
    I’m not sure what is to be done, but official’s overly judicious nature on these types of calls is ruining the sport of football. They often flag hits that are clean and leave obvious dirty plays alone (Borland bodyslamming Martinez?). As a fan, it’s incredibly frustrating to see these blown calls week after week.

    I listen to you on 1620 The Zone in Omaha and really enjoy your work. I enjoyed your call on Saturday night’s debacle for as long as I could tolerate it.

    Thanks for all your hard work making the game more enjoyable for us fans.

    Boyd

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    Charles Davis Reply:

    Thank you, Boyd, for listening and watching!

    Officiating football is extremely challenging, even for the best in the business. I’m not perfect and I don’t expect them to be, either. We all do the very best that we can with the knowledge and continued education that we enjoy.

    Appreciate your input and for visiting the website.

    Charles Davis

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  2. Dec 3rd, 2012 :

    Officials have a tough job, but they’ve become too reactive on anything about the chest, anything, a hit, tackle, block, anything.

    They need to think it through for at least a second and then make a decision.

    I understand all of the rules about safety and everyone has their own opinion on them.

    I wonder if the same people complaining about your opinion of the Kenny Bell “legal” hit when he was penalized, complained about the WWE blody slam on Taylor Martinez that didn’t draw a flag?

    I was more upset the Nebraska teammates didn’t come to Martinez’ defense rather than if a flag should have been thrown.

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    Charles Davis Reply:

    Thank you for your comments, David.

    Everybody is entitled to their opinions and I respect them whether I personally agree or not. The rules are difficult and football officials at all levels have a most challenging job in translating and enforcing them.

    I appreciate your thoughts.

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  3. avatar
    David Britton

    Dec 3rd, 2012 :

    You admit that officials are trained to call a blind-side hits like the one you saw, but then claim it wasn’t illegal. All that suggests to me is that you believe that you know the rules better than the officials and the people that train them. I can’t understand how that’s possible.

    Bell easily could have gotten in between Smith and the ball carrier and made a good, safe block. Instead he decided to lay a clearly-excessive hit. Mike Perrira was trying to agree with the call when he talked to you, but Gus, typically, wouldn’t let him. The unrelenting enthusiasm the two of you showed for the violence of the play was unproffesional, and your condemnation of the officials for properly enforcing the rules did not help your cause.

    I read this looking for an apology. These student-athletes have to take exams in the next couple weeks. How well will they do on them if they have to suffer head trauma so people like you can celebrate violent hits on a football field?

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    Charles Davis Reply:

    Hello David –

    Thank you for writing and expressing your opinion. I respect it, but perhaps we can agree to disagree.

    I never feel that I know the rules better than the officials, but I do work hard to learn them. I work with some of the top officials in the nation to learn and understand the difficult calls that they are challenged to make each game. They know my respect and admiration for them is immense. So, yes, I can disagree with them, just as they do at times, with me.

    I have reviewed the play numerous times, and am so happy that the young man from Wisconsin got up and walked off the field. I don’t like to see anyone get hurt, and would never celebrate anyone’s misfortune.

    All the best.

    Charles Davis

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  4. avatar
    Jimbo Smith

    Dec 3rd, 2012 :

    Can you explain more clearly why if (as you admit in this post) the officials are trained to call such a blind-side hit a penalty, you think it is accurate to disagree with their decision?
    I can comprehend your position if you are claiming you don’t like the rules and don’t feel that a blind side hit like this one should be illegal. However, you seem to be suggesting that the refs are trained in a way that is not consistent with the rules. Seeing as the refs and those who train them are the ones who decide what the rules mean and how to enforce them, it seems illogical to suggest that the official reaction to an admittedly blind-side hit was the wrong one.
    I’m just hoping for some clarification.

    Thanks,
    Jimbo

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    Charles Davis Reply:

    Jimbo,

    Thanks for your question and for visiting the site.

    Yes, I understand that the officials have been instructed to be hyper-vigilant to call certain penalties closer than others. If helmet-to-helmet contact is even suspected, they have been told to throw a flag. If they even suspect that a player is “defenseless” (care to try to define that on each play?), then they are told to throw a flag. As much football as you have watched, my guess is that you have seen more than one helmet-to-helmet call turn out to be incorrect when the replay is shown, yet at full speed, you could understand that it certainly appeared to be that way.

    If the young man from Nebraska is not allowed to block a defender pursuing his teammate (within a few yards of the ball carrier), how is the teammate to be defended? We were all taught to “keep our heads on a swivel” on the field and be ready to protect ourselves. And since the blocker never left his feet and hit the defender shoulder-to-shoulder, then I’m at a loss as to how that should be called a penalty. Frankly, after even more review, my feeling is that if the block did not result in the defender being hurt (SO glad he left the field walking under his own power), then this conversation is not happening.

    The decision to throw a flag is often subjective. So often are the opinions of those of us watching and commentating the game (whether from the booth, press box, stands or home). The officials are not infallible, nor am I. They can be respected, yet, disagreed with at times.

    I appreciate your question, and hope that you understand my answer. I see nothing illogical about this dialogue.

    Take care!

    Charles Davis

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    Jimbo Smith Reply:

    I’ve played and coached a lot of basketball in my day, and we like to say that if something LOOKS like a foul, it is a foul, regardless of whether or not there was actually contact on the play. Watching Devin Smith get thrown out of bounds live, it looked like what Bell did should be illegal. Even if their helmets did not touch, the contact was aimed high on Smith’s body and did not look like a proper football play.

    Of course Bell is allowed to block for his teammate. Bell easily could have gotten in between Smith and the ball carrier and set a safe, clean block. He wasn’t called for a penalty because he’s not allowed to block somebody, he got flagged because the hit was unnecessarily rough. Bell’s “block” did way more than defend his teammate. If Smith hadn’t been hurt, then the hit would not have appeared quite so excessive, and it likely would not have been a penalty. The flag on the play came out after it was clear that Smith was not getting up. When people get called for holding or blocks in the back, do you object because they should be able to defend their teammates?

    I must say that I was at Lucas Oil Stadium for the game and only heard Gus’s and your comments the next day when the game was replayed. Knowing the result of the play, I was flabergasted when Gus started yelling about how it was the best block of the year. I’m not sure it was the opinion that it should not be penalty that upset me as much as the enthusiasm with which the hit was glorified. In the state of the game of football today, with hundreds of players suing the NFL over implications from head trauma, it seems to me that it is bad for the sport to defend dangerous hits like this one with such vigor. I don’t remember watching the rest of the play happen, or Nebraska getting into the end zone, because I was more worried about whether or not Devin Smith was still alive. I just wish that Gus Johnson’s antics, which in a sense were representing the Big Ten for the night, had shown more respect for player safety. Your passing comment about how you were glad that Devin walked off the field does not justify Gus Johnson being able to yell about how great it was. Most viewers would be more interested to hear an intelligent breakdown of how the routes developed and exploited the coverage than listen to Gus Johnson yell about how awesome throwing your shoulder into some poor college kid running at full speed looks.

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    Charles Davis Reply:

    Jimbo —

    Since I’ve explained why I called the play the way I did, I will conclude by saying again, that neither Gus nor I celebrated the young man being on the ground. We were thrilled and relieved to see him get up and walk off the field.

    Again, I appreciate your input.

  5. avatar
    AJ Sisodia

    Dec 3rd, 2012 :

    Charles, I greatly appreciate your expertise and insight into the game of football. I also respect your opinion and hold no ill will over the way you called the play on TV. As much as I love the big hits and by rule I do believe this one was within the lines I found it unnecessary which is where I hope you can see my point of view. As has been addressed, in real time it is very difficult for the call to be made an with such vicious hits the refs have been taught to err on the side of caution. Despite the hit being clean by the rules of the game the reality is the receiver/blocker needed very little contact with the defender to prevent him from tacking the ball carrier. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or ESPN to do one of those Sports Science specials to know that minimal contact (if any) would have been needed to get the chasing defender away from the ball carrier. Simply standing there and impeding his line would have sufficed but I do acknowledge this is a contact sport so I can see why to be on the “safe side” of having him chased down later by the defender why some contact would be needed. A simple engagement with the player or shove would have provided the same result. A block to help his team reach the end zone.

    Players (especially position players) chomp at the bit when they get the rare opportunities like these because they are generally on the receiving end of them. They understand the situation and that based on the person not seeing their hit coming they will be able to deliver a severe blow with a much lower probability of themselves suffering physically for it. Let me preface my next comment with saying that I completely understand the mentality and why it happens and I myself did the same. Even in that split second players laying the type of block we saw know what is about to happen and know of its bone jarring potential. I do not mean injuring the opposing player per say, but that they are most likely about to level a very vicious hit based on the rate of speed the person is coming at, along with their inability to see and brace themselves for the impending hit.

    I believe league officials at all levels pro, college etc. are realizing that many of these hits are avoidable and unnecessary and are now trying to take the steps to eliminate them from the game. This, like many important or drastic changes will take time and most likely have a decent sample of trial and error. It will unfortunately probably cost a player or a team a bad call here or there but in the long run it will be worth it because it willl keep players safer. Again, I fully acknowledge that today’s players will have a difficult adjusting on the fly and it will have a negative impact on some. However, over time the players and future generations will learn to play without these hits and it will not slow down their play or alter their style.

    I understand many people’s setiments will say that’s not football and the game isn’t the same. My response would be that player safety has changed because we as people have changed.
    Physically, we are much stronger and faster. Intellectually, much smarter and more aware of the ramifications of such hits. Remember, years ago people were against taking out the head slap and some were against the horse collar penalty. The game has not only survived but thrived. In ten years kids playing football for the first time will think of these blindside(legal) blocks as the way we do about head slaps. The game will continue and we will still love it. Like a lot in today’s world it will take an open mind, patience, understanding and sacrifice. Thanks. -AJ

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    Charles Davis Reply:

    Thank you for your note and for visiting the website, AJ.

    Your take on this further clarifies what I’ve tried to explain time and again, and I sincerely appreciate the time and thought you put into writing and posting here.

    Football, like its players, is always changing and evolving, especially as we learn more about the makeup of our players. Like you, I believe that we will continue to love the game as it changes.

    Thank you again for a most insightful response.

    Take care,
    Charles Davis

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  6. avatar
    Jerry Wolff

    Dec 4th, 2012 :

    Charles: I appreciate your commentary. If the Bell block was illegal, then the Wisconsin DB launch at Ben Cotton to break up a pass a few plays later was illegal(not called) and the Borland WWE style belly to belly body slam to Martinez was illegal, and intentional with a design to injure,and both of those plays were within a few yards of the officials. The fact that the crew chose to flag Bell but not Borlund is evidence of inconsistency to the extreme. After all, to quote Mike Pereira, they are supposed to call the plays to protect players, especially the QB. It just doesn’t wash, to say , as Pereira did, that the Bell block wa scalled correctly, and then remain silent on the Borlund-Martinez issue. You were professional on both. I question Pereira’s statements.

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    Charles Davis Reply:

    Thank you for your comments, Jerry.

    Remember that in each case that Mike Pereira analyzes a call, he does so from an official’s point of view. He’s with us (and we’re grateful for him!) to help better decipher the rules as they are written and share how he believes officials will call the play based on those rules.

    Many thanks for your time, and for visiting the website.

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  7. Dec 5th, 2012 :

    Charles, I felt you and Gus did a fine job in reporting what you saw at the Big Ten Championship game and did so in a very professional manner. The hit on Devin Smith, and we are all very thankful he was not seriously hurt, was the clean block as you described. Not helmet to helmet, more so shoulder to torso, and if we all looked a bit closer, Kenny Bell could have done much worse and did not. Does anyone review punt and kick off returns? Is anyone calling out the cheap shots to Taylor Martinez – body slam and dive at the knees while passing. Would these same fans be complaining if the roles would have been reversed? You and Gus are a great announcement team and I enjoy your enthusiasm. Keep up the great work. I also want to begrudgingly congratulate the Wisconsin Badgers for the wonderful wood-shed whipping they applied to our Nebraska Cornhuskers. Sincerely glad that Devin Smith is ok and wish the Badgers the best of luck at the Rose Bowl and with (now) finding a new coach.

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    Charles Davis Reply:

    Thanks so much for participating in the conversation, Larry. We work hard to deliver the best commentary that we can every week.

    Officiating is not a perfect science. Officials have a most difficult job, and people can’t appreciate just how challenging until they step onto a field with men who are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before.

    Thank you for your comments, watching our games and visiting this site.

    Take care.

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