Of everything that went wrong in Virginia Tech’s 49-28 loss to Georgia Tech on Thursday, one of the biggest blows to the Hokies was defensive back Khalil Ladler getting ejected for targeting in the second half of the game.
On a third down during the first drive of the second half, Georgia Tech quarterback Tobias Oliver ran the ball 13 yards before being tackled out of bounds by Ladler. Hokies fans celebrated the stop just short of the first down marker, but the officials decided to review the play.
“At first I thought they were looking at it for the spot, but then they came over and told me they were looking at it for targeting,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said after the game.
After a short review, the officials announced that there was a targeting penalty on the play and that Ladler would be ejected from the game. Georgia Tech received 15 yards on the penalty, giving the Yellow Jackets a first down.
“The targeting rule with the way it is, there’s going to be some plays like that,” Fuente said. “I don’t like it because he’s a great kid and I hate that he’s going to have to miss the first half of the next game.”
Ladler ran off the field to cheers from students in the north end zone, but his absence was felt as Georgia Tech continued to pile up the points the rest of the game.
Like Fuente mentioned, Ladler will have to miss the first half of next week’s game against Boston College due to the penalty. Fuente added after the game that he didn’t think the play was intentional, but was just an unfortunate byproduct of Ladler playing hard.
“It wasn’t anything malicious obviously. He was playing hard but those are the rules,” Fuente said. “With the rules the way they are there are going to be some targeting calls where the guy couldn’t have done much else.”
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster wasn’t too happy with the call either, echoing Fuente’s sentiment that it looked like a normal football play to him.
“I was disappointed. I thought it was just a guy chasing the ball,” Foster said. “You could call targeting on probably three-fourths of the plays.”
Ladler has been solid for the Hokies in his first year as a starter and still led the team in tackles on Thursday, despite getting ejected. He will be eligible to return to the field during the second half next week against Boston College.