By Mick Holien
I’m just spoiled.
It seems there have been so many instant classic, I suppose beginning with the post-season baseball games right through game seven of the World Series that I am prepared for every contest to culminate dramatically.
So to start the weekend of course I really was looking forward to my good pal Jerome Souers bringing his league unbeaten Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona to Missoula for the last time.
For those who don’t know Souers, who has been relieved of his head coaching duties after the season comes to an end, first became a member of Don Read’s coaching staff in 1989.
Some of you might remember other staff members like offensive coordinator Tommy Lee, future head coach Robin Pflugrad, Craig Paulson, Bob Beers, Bruce Read and Joe Klucewich.
Read arrived in 86 and the UM program mired in mediocrity had won 31 of 47 games including an eight-win campaign Jerome’s inaugural season.
The soft spoken Souers led a defense that led the nation in rush D, set a school record in 28 picks, and for the first time in school history led the Big Sky Conference in pass defense and total D.
“We keep it simple,” he said. “work hard at technique, and keep the emphasis on execution of our coverage responsibility.”
A highly successful high school coach like his Dad in Southern Oregon, Jerome did stints at Western Washington and Portland State before landing on Read’s staff.
After taking the Northern Arizona job 20 years ago, you could always bet whenever the two teams met you could find a former Grizzly on Jerome’s staff, many of whom were occupying coordinator slots much like his now defense coordinator Andy Thompson.
Thus, it was with mixed feelings I looked forward to Saturday’s final matchup which promised to be a closely balanced affair.
But I have to say, while the Jacks continued to work hard to be competitive and the Grizzlies produced some of their own magic with the return to QB1 status of Makena Simis, IMO the game was greatly affected by the ejection of all-everything young QB Case Cookus for what seems to have become the penalty De jour, targeting.
That’s right the NCAA definition mandates that “no player shall target and make forcible contact against an opponent with the crown (top) of the helmet, adding when in question it is a foul.
The rule does not require helmet to helmet which indeed was not present on this particular play.
An NCAA side note qualifies the rule: Targeting means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball.
an explanation of trying to hurt another player by surging at them with the crown of your helmet . Such a call and subsequent elimination may well be the first and last time such a play brings an ejection of a quarterback.
IMO none of this defines the play which was a violent – yes football is a violent game – and aggressive action early-on in a pivotal contest with every imaginable consequences.
Pure and simple, and I seldom indulge, imo the call was embarrassing and could play a key role on the league and playoff race.
Officiating of course is objective and I hesitate to try to get inside anybody’s head to determine intent but at what point does the work of officials dominate what occurs.
I am friends with many officials and know they work hard to do their best job but they have to show up with their top game just like everyone else involved and allow the game to be decided by the players.
Sure the outcome was close but the game imo in no means was able to live up to expectations.
We all are in favor of protecting players and are aware of the consequences of brain injury and cognitive deficiencies brought from hits to the noggin.
Rest assured like you Jerome there are those who know you got “jobbed.”
But you are a guy who will have a choice of another head job before the Bowl season is over.
We will see you shortly somewhere down the line my friend.