Oklahoma outlasted West Virginia in a 59-56 classic Big 12 shootout that likely had defensive coordinators everywhere weeping for the future of their positions. But even with all of the scoring, and general back-and-forth action, one of the biggest plays in the game came at the tail end of the first quarter. Mountaineers quarterback Will Grier connected with junior wide receiver Marcus Simms for a 14-yard pass that gave their team a first down. At the end of the play, Oklahoma safety Robert Barnes appeared to lower the crown of his helmet to get another hit on the West Virginia receiver. The play appeared to be the very textbook definition of targeting, but Barnes remained in the game.
What made the situation worse was that Simms had to be helped off the field and looked like he was wobbling when heading towards the sideline. The medical staff would not allow Simms to return to the game. The receiver was understandably upset about the decision and even tried grabbing his helmet from staff members on the sideline so that he could return to one of the biggest games of his career.
The immediate response from college football reactionaries was to chalk this up as the conference doing everything in their power to set up an Oklahoma-Texas battle for the Big 12 title. Most of the time, these claims can be dismissed as infantile excuses for a game that didn’t go one set of fans’ way—the refs didn’t have anything to do with what Kyler Murray did last night, for example. That being said, it’s tougher to dismiss things when calls as blatantly obvious as these get missed, even after a review. While things are quiet from West Virginia’s side now, surely there will be some sort of complaint lodged when coach Dana Holgorsen actually sees the replay of the hit.