CHAPEL HILL North Carolina coach Larry Fedora earlier today defended freshman linebacker Shakeel Rashad, who collided with Duke receiver Conner Vernon on Saturday during the second quarter of the Blue Devils 33-30 victory.
With Duke leading 13-6 with about 10 minutes to play in the quarter, Rashad ran onto the field while the Duke offense lined up. Rashad collided with Vernon, the ACCs all-time leader in receptions, and knocked him to the ground. Vernon left the game for one play.
The play has sparked some controversy, though it didnt have an effect on the outcome of the game. After watching the play on film, Duke coach David Cutcliffe said he was speechless about it. Cutcliffe, according to our Duke beat reporter Laura Keeley, had this to say about Rashads collision with Vernon:
It was full speed, and there was no intent to avoid. We were going to turn it in [to the league office] but we understand now that the conference office is looking at it, and I'll be interested to see what they say People have seen it, you've seen it on television, I've just never seen anything quite like it. I was amazed when I saw that this morning. I don't know, I'm kind of speechless about it.
I've never had that happen in my entire career. Very unusual.
It was an unusual play, indeed. The question is whether Rashad went out of his way to run into Vernon.
Fedora on Monday dismissed that suggestion.
First of all, youve got to know Rashad, Fedora said. Hes one of the nicest kids that we have on our football team and I can assure you there was no intention of harming the other player. Or actually, there was no intention on his part to actually even run into the player.
Fedora said Rashad should have been on the field already, and was in panic mode trying to get onto the field in time. Fedora said, joking, that if Rashad had been more athletic he likely could have avoided Vernon.
I promise [you], there was none of, Hey, let me run into this guy and that will stop the play before it gets started, Fedora said. There was no malice at all.