Targeting has been a hot topic for years and the first few weeks of the 2021 college football season have been no exception. But one of Saturday's ejections for the controversial penalty was particularly unique. Six seconds into its game against Stanford, No. 14 USC lost its kicker Parker Lewis to a targeting call as he ran down the field to defend the opening kickoff.
Lewis appeared to hardly graze the helmet of Stanford returner Nathaniel Peat, who was already falling down when Lewis made his tackle attempt. But the officiating crew deemed that Lewis did indeed lead with the crown of his helmet. which constitutes targeting. Though comical because it involved a kicker, the loss of White for virtually the entirety of a game is far from ideal for the Trojans.
The sophomore from Phoenix, Arizona, handled the team's field goal and kickoff roles last season and began his 2021 season going 3-for-3 on field goals in USC's win over San Jose State in Week 1. He also booted six touchbacks on seven kickoffs against the Spartans. The Trojans have redshirt junior kicker Alex Stadhaus on their depth chart behind Lewis, but Stadhaus hasn't attempted a field goal in college and last handled kickoff duties in 2019.
Lewis had never recorded a tackle before Saturday, so at least he'll have a good story to tell about his first one. He did not appear to be amused in the moment, though, as he shook his head seemingly in shock as the lead official announced the ruling.