Clemson's Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams Take Shots to the Head, Keep Playing
Targeting could have been called on both plays but the referees did not make the call. And Clemson's concussion protocol quickly cleared Mike Williams after a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Alabama is beating Clemson 14-7 at halftime of the national title game because the Crimson Tide team are other-worldly good, but they've also benefited from two missed targeting calls.
The first was the closer call, which did at least result in a personal foul penalty, as star Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster nearly decapitated Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson with his arm. It wasn't a helmet-to-helmet hit, but arm-to-head/neck hits are covered under the targeting rule, too.
The second hit was textbook targeting. While star Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams was being stood up by another Alabama tackler, cornerback Tony Brown hit him square in the head. If that's not targeting, nothing is targeting.
Clemson's response to the hit on Williams was as bad as the hit itself. Williams went down on the field and should have undergone an extensive concussion protocol. However, according to ESPN's Sam Ponder, the examination—if there was one at all—was not nearly as comprehensive as it needed to be.
Clemson's lack of an appropriate concussion test for Williams spotlights the danger college athletes play under. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has no concussion protocol, and it does not punish schools for inadequate testing procedures. Players have tried to unionize to improve the safety of players and standardize concussion protocol, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is among those against that movement.