Shane Ray was a spectator for most of the final three quarters of Missouri’s 42-13 loss against Alabama in the SEC championship game Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
Ray, a Bishop Miege graduate and junior defensive end for the Tigers, was flagged for targeting when he appeared to make contact with the crown of his helmet under Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims’ chin barely three minutes into the second quarter.
The call was reviewed and upheld, but, even after seeing a replay, Ray wasn’t convinced his ejection was warranted.
“I’m running to the quarterback, I was within two steps of the quarterback and I hit him as soon as he released,” Ray said. “I didn’t lead with my helmet. I led with my hands, and my head — if you look at the replay, it looks like my head is underneath his chin making contact with his chest. Unfortunately, I got called for targeting, and I can’t do anything about it. I tried to make a play, a physical hit, and I was the recipient of officiating.”
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Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said his coaches upstairs agreed with the officials’ call, which sent Ray to the locker room to watch the rest of the game on TV.
“It was probably one of the worst feelings of my life, having to leave my brothers on that field, especially in a game that we worked so hard together to get to,” Ray said.
Even more painful, Sims’ throw on the play went for a 58-yard touchdown.
The 15-yard personal foul was enforced on the ensuing kickoff, but Ray’s absence was felt the remainder of the game.
“He’s one of the best defensive players in the country, so when you lose a guy like that it hurts,” sophomore linebacker Michael Scherer said.
It was second straight game Ray, the SEC’s leader with 14 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, was flagged for a personal foul.
During the fourth quarter Nov. 28 against Arkansas, Ray hit quarterback Brandon Allen in the back from the blindside after the whistle had blown for a false start.
Ray said he didn’t hear the whistle with Memorial Stadium in full throat, but MU was penalized 15 yards.