Notre Dame had its first player ejected for targeting on Saturday, as Ben Councell was disqualified for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oklahoma running back Brennan Clay.
Councell, who's backed up Jaylon Smith at 'dog' outside linebacker, is tentatively suspended for the first half of Saturday's game against Arizona State in Arlington, Texas. Coach Brian Kelly plans to appeal the suspension, though, saying he viewed the hit as "unavoidable."
"We don't believe there was any intent there -- it was a bang-bang play, and the rule is clearly in intent," Kelly said Sunday. "There was no intent, he was trying to make a play on the ball. We'll obviously discuss it with the commissioner of the ACC and we'll make our case that in video as we've looked at it, we clearly don't see any intent for him to lead and intentionally try to strike with his helmet."
Here's a gif of the play -- Clay bobbled Blake Bell's pass, and Councell drilled the Oklahoma running back right in the helmet. On first look, the call seemed to a textbook example of targeting, but if Kelly is successful in arguing there was no intent for a helmet-to-helmet hit, Notre Dame may not lose Councell for 30 minutes on Saturday.
"The game of football is so fast, he's coming across trying to make a play," Kelly said. "Absolutely, in my opinion, unavoidable."
If Councell's suspension is upheld, Kelly said Romeo Okwara would likely slide over to 'dog' and rotate in with starter Jaylon Smith.