A serious-looking injury has cast a pall over a game that began with a high amount of anticipation and excitement.
Late in the first quarter of the Cincinnati-Memphis matchup, Bearcat quarterback Gunner Kiel was met by Tiger defender Chauncy Lanier. As Kiel gave himself up in a slide, Lanier laid him out with a vicious hit to the signal-caller’s head. It looked as if both Lanier’s head and shoulder pads made contact with Kiel’s helmet, leading to the officials throwing a flag for targeting.
Kiel, who sustained a concussion last weekend but was cleared for tonight’s game, lay motionless on the turf almost from the moment he was hit. Medical personnel from both sidelines assisted in getting Kiel strapped to a board and carted off toward an awaiting ambulance.
While none of the television shots showed any movement below the neck, an ESPN sideline reporter claimed to have seen Kiel’s toes move. He was also communicating with emergency personnel before, instead of being taken to a local hospital for further observation, he was taken into the locker room. In an update, UC stated that Kiel is awake and moving all four limbs.
As for the hit itself, it looked like the dictionary-definition of targeting, which the American Football Coaches Association defines as “[n]o player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, fist, elbow or shoulder.” Based on the video evidence…
… that’s clearly a targeting foul. However, upon further review, the AAC officiating crew decided to overturn the initial call, wiping out the penalty and allowing Lanier to remain in the game. With social media grabbing its pitchforks and torches ready to mount a protest, the conference attempted to explain the decision to rescind the targeting call.
Kiel’s legs and backside were clearly on the ground prior to the hit, so the league’s explanation doesn’t hold much if any water. By definition, per the SEC’s coordinator of officials Steve Shaw, a sliding player is defenseless.
As for the game, Kiel’s replacement, Hayden Moore, hit on a 68-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to give the visiting Bearcats a 17-14 lead in what’s a key AAC matchup. Memphis scored three minutes later to take a 21-17 lead with 11:03 remaining in the half.
As of this posting, UC is driving inside Memphis territory with just over nine minutes remaining as they look to retake the lead.
UPDATED 9:08 p.m. ET: Kiel has been transported via ambulance to a local Memphis hospital for further evaluation. Per UC officials, Kiel remains conscious and has movement in all of his extremities.
UPDATED 9:26 p.m. ET: As for the game itself, the wildly entertaining matchup has gone to halftime, with Cincinnati holding a 30-28 lead on Memphis. The teams traded the lead six different times, with the Bearcats striking last in the half with under two minutes remaining.
UC holds a decided 419-264 edge in total offense. Moore, who replaced the injured Kiel, has thrown for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The freshman came into tonight’s game with a career total of 225 yards passing and one touchdown.
UofM’s Paxton Lynch has thrown for 189 yards and a touchdown.