Much like a game-winning field goal or a Hail Mary caught by the quarterback’s team for any squad, there’s one play that Huskers fans remember very well from the 2015 season. It didn’t go their way and plenty of people who weren’t necessarily cheering on the Big Red questioned why it didn’t.
The infamous tackle by Nate Gerry in the 2015 Foster Farms Bowl against UCLA that looks more like a form tackle than anything that intended to cause harm has been added to national training tapes according to Bill Carollo, Big Ten coordinator of football officials. Of the 21 targeting calls in the Big Ten last season, nine were reversed.
As reported by Jon Nyatawa of the Omaha World-Herald, “A couple weren’t called — and should have been. A couple were called — and shouldn’t have been. Carollo understands the importance of getting it right. ‘It’s our most important call,’ he said.”
Huskers’ head football coach Mike Riley most certainly questioned the call during the team’s bowl game and did again early last March. “We have to help define for players what is legal and not legal because 10 years ago, you would cut that up on a video and say that this is good form tackling right here,” Riley told the World-Herald.
As a result, replay officials are being brought in to help oversight when it comes to correctly determining the intent, if any, of a targeting play. “This rule is so important from the standpoint of player safety and disqualification of the person committing the foul that we felt like this was a legitimate reason to expand that responsibility,” NCAA national officiating coordinator Rogers Redding said in teleconference earlier this year.
Safety of players is paramount and we see that with debate heating up over whether or not kickoffs should remain as part of the game. Nebraska decided to be proactive as the targeting penalty isn’t going away soon. Leaving 15-yard penalties and potential ejections to chance just isn’t worth it.
Instead, the Big Red has implemented rugby-style tackling made famous by Pete Carroll during his days with the USC Trojans and in his current tenure with the Seattle Seahawks. The Huskers aren’t the only Big Ten team to use this method — Urban Meyer is a big fan and his Ohio State Buckeyes practice the same technique. The beautiful part about this method of tackling is that not only does it remove the potential for head-to-head collisions, but it can be practiced in shorts and t-shirts.
It’s a shame that teams which form tackle have to walk such a fine line. Don’t be surprised to see the number of teams across the FBS level begin to adopt this style of tackling, especially if referees can’t up their game in terms of calling appropriate targeting penalties even with advanced technology.
As for Gerry and the rest of the Blackshirts, hopefully this new tackling style will be able to drastically lower any potential head-to-head impact and severely lessen any worry about the safety known as “Bane” getting tossed again.