Air Force checked into filing an appeal of Weston Steelhammer's first-half suspension after a targeting call on Saturday night, but the Mountain West said that can't happen.
The league's Colorado Springs-based spokesman Javan Hedlund said the NCAA rule with targeting, particularly because it is exhaustively checked by the replay booth, is simply, "once you're out, you're out."
Under the rules designed to protect players, anyone ejected for targeting in the first half misses the remainder of that game. Anyone ejected in the second half misses the remainder of the game and the first half of the next one.
That leaves Air Force (3-0) without Steelhammer for the first half against Navy (3-0) on Saturday. Steelhammer is among the top safeties in Falcons history, a two-time all-Mountain West selection who made nine tackles - including one for a loss - before being ejected in a 27-20 victory at Utah State on Saturday.
Steelhammer was also ejected for targeting early in the Armed Forces Bowl after hitting a receiver after an incomplete pass in December. Officials later determined that call should not have been made and used it as an example in offseason officiating seminars.
Coach Troy Calhoun, who chaired the committee that created the targeting rule, grew fired up when discussing Steelhammer's ejection after Saturday's game.
"The only thing I'll say is this: The quarterback is a runner, and any time there is a runner you cannot use the crown of your helmet. That's the rule. Period," Calhoun said. "And yet if you tackle a guy with your shoulder and there's some contact with the shoulder and some helmet to helmet . every time there's a tackle on the ball carrier there's going to be helmet to helmet contact. Period. Until we learn to interpret that the right way, we've got all these interpretations and there's nothing clear cut. That's all I'll say on that."
Hedlund said the Mountain West had no issues with Calhoun's comments, since they were addressing the interpretation of the rules and not the particular officials.
Steelhammer made light of his bowl-game ejection in early August when asked about who carried the reputation as the meanest player on the Air Force defense.
"If I had to pick the person who would get kicked out the game it's obviously me," Steelhammer said after the first practice of the season.
He then described the lonely, helpless feeling he found in an empty locker room. There was a TV in there for him to watch the game, so that helped.
"Don't want that to happen again," he said at the time.
Like Calhoun, Steelhammer's teammates rushed to his defense after the game.
"I can't make any comments on the officials," quarterback Nate Romine said. "They saw what they saw. But we're going to like him when he gets back in the second half next game."