Stanford QB drilled in head by Northwestern defender's forearm, targeting not called

Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello (3) is attended to by medical staff after sustaining an injury against Northwestern. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello took a scary hit to the head late in the first half against Northwestern and was knocked out of the game.

With his team leading 7-0 and looking to get in field goal range before halftime, Costello took off running toward midfield. As the Northwestern defenders collapsing toward him, Costello went into a slide but was leveled by Earnest Brown.

Brown delivered a forearm directly to Costello’s helmet and was given a 15-yard late hit penalty. However, targeting was curiously not called.

According to ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, Brock Huard, who was in the broadcast booth for Saturday’s game, said the Big Ten officiating crew felt Brown’s hit was “incidental” contact to Costello’s head, therefore it did not warrant a targeting penalty. The play was not reviewed for targeting, either.

According to the NCAA, targeting means “that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball.” There are several indicators for targeting as well. One is “leading with helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area.”

Brown’s forearm seemed to fit into that category, but the targeting call was not made.

The penalty put Stanford in position for a 51-yard Jet Toner field goal that gave the team a 10-0 lead at the break.

As for Costello, he walked off the field under his own power after briefly laying on the turf, but the hit caused him to be removed from the game. He did not return, but the Cardinal went on to win, 17-7.

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