STILLWATER – When Tylan Wallace turned inside after the snap, he saw the play set up perfectly.
During the second quarter of Oklahoma State’s 35-31 loss against Baylor on Saturday, Wallace was on the right side of the formation when offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich called a swing pass to Chuba Hubbard on Wallace’s side. Wallace quickly found who to block when the play began.
Baylor safety Verkedric Vaughns had slid down into the flat area slightly beyond the line of scrimmage. Vaughns was covering fellow OSU receiver Landon Wolf, who looped right to become a lead blocker for Hubbard.
As Vaughns turned to follow Wolf on the play, Wallace focused on the block. When he reached the hash, Wallace lowered his shoulder, turned his head away from Vaughns and delivered a smashing blow.
Vaughns was taken off his feet. Hubbard caught the ball and scampered for 18 yards after another effective block from Wolf.
Following Wallace’s crackback block, the back official on Baylor’s side of the field threw his flag. The call was targeting.
“I was hoping that it didn’t happen,” Wallace said. “I was kind of iffy about the block because I didn’t see the replay on it, so I wasn’t 100 percent positive I had gotten low enough.”
For the second time this season, Wallace was called for targeting on a crackback block. Both were overturned, and Wallace was able to remain in the game.
Baylor coach Matt Rhule was uphauled at the ruling after the review and was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Vaughns was down on the field for about 30 seconds before being helped off the field.
Here’s the definition of targeting in the NCAA rulebook: No player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent (See Note 2 below) with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting (See Note 1 below). When in question, it is a foul (Rules 2-27-14 and 9-6). (A.R. 9-1-4-I-VI).
There was no question as to whether there was targeting on the play, so there was no foul. Wallace led with his shoulder and hit the chest area of the opponent. It was a physical play that seemed violent in real time, but it was a clean block.
“It’s such a great play, and he’s so physical,” Yurcich said. “If you’re a roll down safety and you’re getting cracked like that, you’re going to think twice about it. (Receivers) coach (Kasey) Dunn does a great job of teaching technique, making sure that we hit low on that block and getting our head across and hitting with the shoulder so when we run those sorts of plays, they know exactly which technique to use.”
Baylor fans weren’t pleased with the ruling along with Rhule, often booing Wallace each time he touched the ball after the play.
The Cowboys under Dunn have been known for their paramount blocking at the receiver position. One could argue there isn’t another team in college football that has receivers who block as well as OSU’s. But there is some concern that it’s the second time a flag has come out this season on OSU’s budding star.
“We talked about it on the headphones,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “(Wallace is) doing it the right way. He’s getting low, and he’s dropping his shoulder. He’s really good at it, but I would like it to be about 12 inches lower down (in the chest). We can’t afford to lose him for a game. They’ve been clean.
“It was officiated properly. It looked like it could potentially be a targeting, they flagged it, reviewed it, said it wasn’t and said you’re all good. But it does make us nervous.”
Wallace said he practices those blocks every day in practice, so it helps him not hesitate in games, even after he received the second targeting call.
Gundy said they have talked with officiating gurus about how to have a clean crackback. He said there’s some transparency with the rules because if either defender would have turned to see the contact coming and braced themselves by lowering their bodies, Wallace would have hit them too high and been called for targeting.
Earlier this season, Gundy was furious after safety Kenneth Edison-McGruder was ejected for targeting after hitting a ball carrier in his helmet. Gundy was frustrated because Edison-McGruder tried to tackle low, but the South Alabama ball carrier lowered his body to brace for impact, thus creating the illegal collision.
Wallace said once he saw the replay, he knew he would remain in the game. Officials are supposed to throw flags on plays like that, which Gundy mentioned. They reviewed it, saw the block was clean and moved on.
For Yurcich, he’s glad his receivers are able to continue creating highlight reel blocks.
“Still in this day and age, with all of the targeting and all sorts of on goings with the rules and infractions, it’s still nice to see a nice, physical crack back that’s legal, which is what he’s been doing all season long,” Yurcich said.
DETAILS TO KNOW
What: Oklahoma State (5-4, 2-4) at No. 6 Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1)
Where: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (Norman, Oklahoma)
When: 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday
TV: ABC (Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Todd McShay)
Radio: OSU broadcast: 96.1 KXY, Cowboy Radio Network (Dave Hunziker, John Holcomb and Robert Allen); OU broadcast: 107.7 KRXO, Sooner Radio Network (Toby Rowland, Teddy Lehman, Gabe Ikard, Chris Plank and Merv Johnson)