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Replay review should be able to adjudicate situations in which a punter takes a dive. However,...

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Replay review should be able to adjudicate situations in which a punter takes a dive. However, until replay is given jurisdiction over this issue, make a clean distinction between legitimate contact and flopping. Seminoles-Tigers involved two intersections between FSU punt rusher Lamarcus Joyner and Clemson punter Dawson Zimmerman. In the first quarter, Joyner clearly pulled up and exhibited the restraint that should be expected of any punt returner. Any reasonable person would look at that play and conclude that the punt rusher (Joyner) displayed an appropriate degree of prudence and care. The bodies of the two men touched, but that’s the extent of their contact – they didn’t collide or slam together; they merely touched each other, a light brushing of jersey against jersey. The level of force rivaled that of a feather against skin, not a moving truck slamming into a tree at 50 miles per hour. Joyner did nothing to threaten or endanger Zimmerman’s safety. If anything, Joyner looked out for the Clemson punter’s well being. Yet, a flag was thrown, and Clemson – bailed out on fourth down – scored a touchdown just minutes later. Go inside the mind of Mr. Joyner. How would you feel if, in this high-testosterone game fueled by emotion, you showed the self-restraint any coach should admire in a player, only to be flagged anyway because the opposing punter dropped to the ground when you merely touched him without any appreciable velocity? Zimmerman flopped, turning an innocent episode of human touch (nothing more) into a game-altering incident. Some would say that, under the prevailing rules of college football, Zimmerman used savvy to sell – and draw – the penalty. Zimmerman – like all seductive punters – took advantage of rules skewed in his favor and did what soccer players so often do. Soccer, for all its problems, has begun to issue yellow cards for players who take dives, particularly in the opposing team’s penalty box. Now, college football – in a move I’ve been pushing for a number of years – needs to get serious about hammering punters with 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties when they dive. In the absence of 15-yard penalties for flopping, college football will witness even more incidents such as the second meeting between Mr. Joyner and Mr. Zimmerman... incidents in which a different kind of hammering takes place. Joyner – dinged by officials even when he did all the right things a quarter earlier – decided to make a pell-mell damn-the-torpedoes rush at Zimmerman late in the second quarter. Yes, Joyner was trying to block the punt, but the memory of his unrewarded restraint likely made him less inhibited, not more. The result? Zimmerman suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of the game and will limit his punting abilities for the rest of the season. It is sincerely hoped that Zimmerman will make a complete recovery and return to form, but it also has to be said that Zimmerman bears some responsibility for his unfortunate and lamentable situation. If you fake or exaggerate physical contact in one instance, trying to cast an honest competitor (Lamarcus Joyner) as a cruel and heartless author of injury, you shouldn’t expect much sympathy when that same man comes at you hard the next time. If a light brushing of bodies – without any appreciable physical force – is going to draw a flag and convert a fourth down, there’s less reason for a punt rusher to exhibit restraint. College football’s rules and officials – the written laws and the human beings charged with applying them on gamedays – combined to create the injury to Dawson Zimmerman. If flopping gets penalized with an unsportsmanlike conduct flag and insignificant physical contact is not penalized with a five-yard running-into-the-punter penalty, fewer punters will get seriously injured. Is that a fact in the same way that two plus two equals four? No, not quite. However, it is a common-sense conclusion to draw from a situation that is very erroneously adjudicated by the sport of college football.

Matt Zemek of CFN
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