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Published on Sep 22, 2009
Great job by Decker to hold on to the ball. Cattouse's hit was clean and too many commenters appear to be ignorant of the rules.
From the 2009-2010 NCAA rule book:
Rule 9-1-3: (a) No player shall initiate contact and target an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet. When in question, it is a foul. (b) No player shall initiate contact and target a defenseless opponent above the shoulders. When in question, it is a foul.
Rule (a) means no spearing on any part of the body. Rule (b) means don't target the head (with any part of your body) when tackling.
Approved Ruling 9-1-3: (II) Receiver A83 has just leaped and received a forward pass. As A83 is about to regain his balance, B45 launches and drives into A83 above the shoulder area with his helmet or shoulder. RULING: Foul by B45 for targeting and initiating contact with a defenseless opponent above the shoulders. (III) As ball carrier A20 sweeps around the end and heads upfield, he lowers his head and contacts defensive end B89 who is trying to tackle him. The players meet helmet to helmet. RULING: No foul. Neither A20 nor B89 is a defenseless player and neither has targeted his opponent in the sense of Rule 9-1-3.
AR (II) says you can't target the head, particularly on a defenseless player. AR (III) makes it clear that not all helmet-to-helmet contact is illegal.
With Cattouse and Decker, Decker was a defenseless player, but Cattouse drove his shoulder into Decker's chest—not "above the shoulders" as specified in the rules—and he clearly leaned his head to the left. The helmet-to-helmet contact was incidental. Since he wasn't targeting the defenseless player above the shoulders, there was no foul. It was a good non-call.