BYU football will face the University of Southern California on Sept. 14 without the help of defensive linebacker Devin Kaufusi.
Kaufusi won’t be able to play during the first half because of a foul call he received during last week’s game against Tennessee. He was ejected from the game during the fourth quarter for a targeting penalty he received when tackling Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisia Tuiaki said he believed the call was fair, and that he hopes Kaufusi can do better in the future.
“We’ve just got to be better. I’ve got to be better as a coach in coaching him how to do it, and he’s got to be better as a player in making decisions,” Tuiaki said.
Kaufusi said it’s tough as a player to be kicked out of the game an infraction occurred in, but it’s even tougher knowing you will miss part of the next game.
The standard punishment for a targeting call, as established by the NCAA, is 15-yards and immediate removal of the offending player from the game. The offending player must sit out for two consecutive halves, so if a targeting call is made in the second half of a game, the player will be required to sit out for the first half of the team’s next game, which is the case with Kaufusi.
Coach Kalani Sitake said he believes the punishment is extreme, especially considering that players are not ejected from the game for other fouls such as unsportsmanlike conduct, which is done on purpose and with ill intent.
“I know they have to protect the players, but … if it’s something that’s incidental, I don’t think it needs to really be so harsh,” Sitake said.
The targeting rule was established in the NCAA in 2008. A targeting penalty occurs when a player hits a defenseless opponent in the head or neck area or leads with the crown of his helmet while tackling. A defenseless player is someone who is not currently in a position to defend themselves, such as a player who is in the act of passing, kicking or receiving a pass or kick.
Kaufusi said that sometimes it is tough knowing where or how to hit someone to avoid targeting. He added that his 6-foot-7 height makes it difficult to hit smaller players the right way.
“There’s just so many factors that go into it. There’s not always the perfect hit; there’s not always the perfect look,” Kaufusi said.
Kaufusi’s absence could affect how the team plays going into the game this Saturday. USC has had a perfect season so far, winning its first two games against Fresno State and Stanford. Kaufusi said that while USC has a great team, he believes the Cougars can take them, even missing one of their players.
“It’s next man up, and that’s just the mentality. We don’t care who gets put up in front of us or who goes down on our team, the next man’s ready to contribute,” Kaufusi said.