Fresh off a surprising 2-0 start, Hugh Freeze and his Rebels got a bit of bad news from the SEC this morning. The league has announced that freshman defensive back Trae Elston will be suspended for this weekend’s game against Texas due to an illegal hit he doled out in last week’s Ole Miss/UTEP game.
According to the league’s release:
“This action was the result of a flagrant and dangerous act which occurred at the 3:18 mark in the fourth quarter. The action is in violation of Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA Football Rule Book, which reads, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder,’ and Rule 9-1-3 which states, ‘No player shall target and initiate contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.’”
To be sure, many Rebel fans won’t like it, but we give the league a thumbs-up on this one. When it comes to player safety, MrSEC.com is a big proponent of doing anything and everything to protect the athletes on the field. (And we’ll make the point again later today.) The video below shows that at least one UM fan was proud of the fact that Elston teed up a defenseless receiver. More than likely, that same fan would have decried such a vicious hit had a UTEP player endangered a Rebel receiver in the exact same manner.
Take the rah-rah team stuff out of it and no player should be allowed to launch himself in the manner below at a defenseless foe. And that has as much to do with the safety of the person launching himself as it does the person being targeted.
UPDATE — As expected, I’ve already gotten six emails from angry Ole Miss fans. All said Elston’s hit was legal. Two actually said they’re tired of this pro-Mississippi State website. Gotta love some folks. Write something that doesn’t jive with their school and the writer must secretly “hate us” or “love our rivals.” Yeesh.
This was not a legal hit. Read the rule — already posted above — and look at the stills below.
“No player shall target and initiate contact…
to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent…
with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.”
Elston could have seriously injured another player with that hit. That doesn’t make him a bad guy, just means he made a bad play.
If there’s a fanbase in the country that should realize that athletes’ safety must come first, it’s that of Ole Miss. Unbelievably, it seems a few folks in Oxford need to be reminded that the bronze bust players rub before taking the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is that of former Rebel Chucky Mullins, paralyzed during a game in 1989.
Or maybe Mullins has become nothing more than a lucky charm for current Rebel players and fans. I’m disgusted that in a situation like this — where a player is suspended for clearly violating a league rule — so many people will defend him and curse the decision simply because the color jersey he was wearing.
And the ol’ “Well, they didn’t suspend this guy” argument that’s now popping up in our comment boxes doesn’t hold water, either. The league needs to be consistent in its rulings, no doubt. I agree completely.
But if I get a ticket for driving 90 miles per hour, it’d be hard for me to use the “but that guy was also driving 90″ defense. A) Because I was indeed driving 90 miles per hour and B) because the police officer would have clocked me, not him. Fair? Maybe not when compared to other driver. But when held to the actual legal standard, absolutely fair.