IOWA CITY — Parker Hesse didn’t get a good look at the hit that will keep Amani Jones in the Iowa locker room for the first half of Saturday’s game at Indiana.
“But I felt it,’’ the Hawkeye defensive end said Tuesday. “I was probably 10 yards away, but that was one of those hits you could feel.’’
Jones was flagged for targeting following a collision with Minnesota receiver Chris Autman-Bell as he attempted to make a tackle with less than a minute remaining in last weekend’s 48-31 victory over Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium.
While it appeared Jones made contact with his shoulder pads, the replay official confirmed the call on the field that helmet-to-helmet contact was made and Jones was ejected for the final seconds last week.
Because the infraction took place during the second half, the junior is also required to sit out the first half of Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against the Hoosiers.
With starting middle linebacker Jack Hockaday already sidelined with a knee injury and Jones suspended for the opening half, Kristian Welch will shift into the starting role and true freshman Dillon Doyle will be the backup for the first two quarters against the Hoosiers.
Where things go from there remains undetermined, coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
Ferentz joined several Iowa players in defending the play Jones was involved in, but said he understands both the reasoning for the rule and the challenges faced by those attempting to officiate it.
“I saw a Michigan State receiver kind of get hit in a similar way and there wasn’t a flag on the field,’’ Ferentz said. “It’s a really tough play to officiate. I think there is a lot of interpretation in there. It’s all about player safety, which everybody supports, coaches and players alike, but there are tough things about it.’’
There are circumstances that Iowa coaches tell players to avoid that lessen the likelihood of a targeting call.
Keeping eyes up, avoiding hitting an opponent with the helmet and avoiding contact in the head and neck area are among priorities.
Ferentz said he believes Jones was attempting to get out of the way when he made contact with Autman-Bell.
“As much as anything, it was a really loud hit,’’ he said. “If you were at the stadium, it sounded like a shotgun going off, pads hitting pads, really. But everybody was on the same page. I’ve never seen so many flags on one play.’’
Free safety Jake Gervase, who was in the vicinity when the play happened, believes it was a situation Jones couldn’t prevent.
“I don’t know what he could have changed,’’ Gervase said. “I thought he led with his shoulder. It was just a really hard, violent hit. Football can be a violent, aggressive game.’’
Gervase joined strong safety Amani Hooker in saying he appreciates the intent of the rule.
“Nobody wants to be out there playing the game the wrong way,’’ he said. “The rule is there for a reason and it’s up to us to adjust to it.’’
Players can find themselves walking a bit of a tightrope, though.
“Where there is a play there to be made, you want to make it,’’ Hooker said. “You don’t back off, but you have to do it the right way.’’
Gervase feels for Jones, who led Iowa with nine tackles after replacing Hockaday when he was injured in the second quarter.
“It’s a tough deal for him,’’ Gervase said. “He got a chance to get in the game when (Hockaday) went down and he was out there doing his job, trying to make a play. He’ll get through it, and we’ll be there for him.’’
Ferentz appreciates that all targeting calls are automatically reviewed now, getting more eyes on the play, but said it is also likely that nobody will ever be in 100 percent agreement on the outcome.
He added that it was fortunate neither player was injured on the play.
“That’s the biggest thing,’’ Ferentz said. “We’ll live with it. It’s just part of football in this day and age.’’