The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Bill Bowman

October 18, 2011

Bill Bowman On college football: Some flags just not warranted

I've been covering college football for the better part of 15 years, been following it since I could read, and I learned something on Saturday. Momma said I'd never stop learning and, you know, she's always right.

Anyway, did you know it is illegal to tackle someone hard? I did not know that. Steve Briggs didn't know that and he's been doing the Saturday afternoon thing a lot longer than me. Neither did Ken Schetroma.

But, apparently, it is.

In a first half filled with 15-yard penalties — most of them on Brigg's Susquehanna side and most deserved — the one that jumped out was Schetroma's. Now, make no mistake about it, SU was wearing out Moravian's quarterbacks. The starter never returned after halftime and, after three consecutive sacks on their final drive of the game and down 20 points, the 'Hounds coaching staff opted to punt the ball away rather than give the Crusaders another chance to tag the QB.

By then, however, the game was already decided. But when the game was still in doubt, one call caused Briggs to rightfully blow a gasket. Me, being the objective one, let it slide, but truth be told, it was shaky.

On Moravian's second possession in a scoreless game, Greyhound quarterback Robbie Moyer was flushed out the pocket. Schetroma, Susquehanna's big 280-pound tackle out of Southern Columbia, chased down Moyer, a 175-pound sophomore, from behind. Schetroma grabbed Moyer around the waist with both arms as the Moravian quarterback tried to scoot forward for a couple more yards.

As Moyer shuffled his way for a few feet and then tried to spin out of the play, Schetroma lifted him off the ground and — going to back to my days as a WWF fan — gave him a belly-to-back suplex, flipping the QB over onto his back.

The flag flew, a personal foul for unnecessary roughness, much to the chagrin of Briggs and SU fans, and leaving Schetroma dumbfounded.

Was the tackle violent? Sure it was. Was it dirty? No. Was it unsportsmanlike? No. Was it unnecessary? Maybe, but Moyer was still trying to get away and Schetroma felt like it was the best way to get him down. The whistle had not yet blown and, if Moyer had been able to spin away like he was trying to, he could have gone a long way. It wasn't any worse than 10 other tackles in Saturday's game.

It came on third-and-long and, after SU had seemingly forced a punt, Moravian kept the ball thanks to the automatic first down, although it did punt later in the drive.

My guess is, and I didn't talk to the officials, because it was the quarterback, extra caution was taken. But in that spot, Moyer was running with the ball and was looking to find a gap, not an open receiver.

Briggs said after the game the referee told him the flag was for excessive force. "My answer to that was, 'Do I tell him not to play that hard?''' Briggs asked rhetorically.

"I guess I got a penalty for tackling too hard," Schetroma said Saturday. "I slammed the quarterback and I guess he landed on his head. I was just trying make the tackle as best I could. You win some, you lose some."

Monday morning Briggs said he got a lengthy email from Jim Corpora, the co-coordinator of officials for the Centennial Conference. The email said Corpora had gone over the play numerous times and at numerous speeds and he felt the play did not warrant a flag.

But, Briggs said, the email also stated that officials' emphasis on player safety is "at an all-time high" and that was the reason, in the referee's opinion, it was unnecessary.

I get that. Safety is a huge part of the game because it can be so violent. And officials have to be overly vigilant when it comes to quarterbacks because they are so prone to big hits. When they are standing in the pocket, they are looking downfield — at least the good ones do — not at the pass rushers. When they release the ball and a defender is right on them, the collision can be devastating. Same thing with a defenseless receiver over the middle.

Those kids you have to protect and the best way to do that is with a flag because you can't fine them in college.

But Schetroma's hit and those are in different categories. That's what was puzzling about it. Briggs said he would never question an official's judgment call because, by their essence, they are tough and the guys in the stripes on Saturdays have a tough, tough job. What one official sees as a flag, the next guy might not. That's not a problem; it's the nature of the beast.

Still, as he gets set to start another week of practice this week against another tough opponent in Ursinus, Briggs has an unanswered question: "What do I tell Kenny Schetroma?"

Just keep playing the only way you know how.

— Sports editor Bill Bowman covers college football for The Daily Item. E-mail comments to bbowman@dailyitem.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/williambbowman

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