By R.L. Bynum
Virginia safety Joey Blount’s egregious hit on Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs that has been making the rounds on social media has no place in football.
Late in the third quarter, the Tar Heels’ Ty Chandler rushed around the left side of the line and was tackled in front of the Virginia bench on a 21-yard gain during UNC’s 59–39 victory at Kenan Stadium on Saturday night.
Far away from Chandler during the play, Downs was running in the defensive backfield, a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. Yet Blount delivered a crushing hit to Downs’ side that led Downs to make contact with a referee.
Blount’s only penalty for the hit was an injury and, fortunately, Downs wasn’t hurt.
Downs didn’t see the hit coming. But why would he, since he not only didn’t have the ball but he was far away from the play?
Obviously, that referee didn’t see the hit because he was looking the other way. The other referees didn’t see it and the ACC Network broadcast crew didn’t see it, either.
There was a penalty on the play, but it was against Cavaliers defensive back Antonio Clary for grabbing Chandler’s face mask. That penalty was for 15 yards, just as it would have been if Blount had been correctly called for a block in the back.
“I ran like a dig route on the play,” Downs said Tuesday. “And I turned around and I got hit. I didn’t really think anything of it. I wasn’t paying attention. There wasn’t really much to it. I don’t think it was that clean. But, I mean, it is what it is. I’m not happy with it but it’s not that big of a deal.”
It doesn’t appear that the ACC will take any action against Blount.
“We’re not anticipating any announcement following the Week 3 games,” said Kevin Best, the ACC’s senior associate commissioner/communications.
UNC coach Mack Brown was not happy with ACC’s response.
“When I addressed it with the conference office, and I thought it was a teachable moment for them, too, about player safety. I’ve never been more disappointed than the response I got,” Brown said Wednesday.
It was clear that the ACCN crew didn’t see it because, after the play, the telecast put Blount in the “PLAYER SPOTLIGHT” as he sat on the Kenan Stadium turf while getting medical attention.
Blount could be seen then heading into the injury tent. Blount was taken to the dressing room and later was on the sideline with an arm in a sling from a collarbone injury. Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that he is expected to play against Wake Forest.
It seems likely that he either got hurt delivering that hit on Downs or aggravated an injury doing it.
Most players didn’t know about the hit until the next day.
“It was something in the film room that we had to see,” right tackle Williams Barnes said Tuesday. “I know Josh was talking about it when it happened, but we kind of didn’t understand what he meant because we didn’t show it. But as soon as we got on the film we saw, we saw the play it was, it was bad.”
The good news is that Downs didn’t get hurt, later catching a pass for 10 of his 203 reception yards.
Next time, if cheap shots like this are allowed to keep happening without being punished, it might not turn out quite as well.