By Rob Moseley
In all of college football this past weekend, just six players were ejected under a new punishment structure for penalties designed to protect defenseless players from headshots.
As Oregon fans well know, one of the six was UO cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who played less than one quarter of Saturday’s win over Nicholls. Mitchell went low to bring down Nicholls quarterback Beaux Hebert on a running play. Hebert went into a slide and was struck in the head.
Neither player returned to the game. Hebert was replaced due to a presumed concussion, Mitchell was ejected and the corresponding 15-yard penalty set up the Colonels’ only points of the day, on a field goal. Mitchell was led from the field by a UO official, and was waiting for his teammates in the locker room when the game ended, already in street clothes.
“To be honest, I knew it was going to happen,” Mitchell said Tuesday of the ejection, once he realized why he’d been flagged. “But I was like, ‘Man, this is really going to happen to me!’ I couldn’t believe it, but it was all right, though.”
Because the ejection occurred in the first half, Mitchell’s penalty won’t carry over into this week’s road trip to Virginia.
Mitchell said today he didn’t necessarily agree with the call, but understood that officials had a different opinion on the play. He wanted to make clear that he wasn’t leading with his own helmet, though an ejection can be applied either when a defender uses the crown of his helmet or when he’s ruled to have targeted an opponent’s head with any body part.
“For everybody to know, they think I went with my head; it was not my head, it was clearly my shoulder,” Mitchell said. “I was already committed to what I was going to do. I thought he was going to try to lower his shoulder and get the first down; he slid, I had already committed, (and) it was my shoulder. If it was my head, I probably would have been a little shook up, too.”
Mitchell said Tuesday the “bang-bang play” was “a learning process.” He said the ejection won’t inhibit his play moving forward.
“You’ve got to be smart,” Mitchell said. “But at the same time, you’ve got to stay aggressive. Stay aggressive but not do nothing crazy.”
Mitchell finished Saturday with two tackles in the limited action – having already anticipated a brief appearance against the FCS foe. In practice the last two days, Mitchell has come up with several interceptions, seeming to show how eager he is to be back on the field making plays after the aborted opener.
“I knew my day was going to be cut kind of short, but I didn’t know it would be cut as short,” Mitchell said. “I still got to get out there, run around a little bit, make some contact with some people, so that was the biggest thing for me.”