Riggs ready after targeting ejection

Cody Riggs spent all but one play of the Missouri game sitting alone in the Florida locker room. After being ejected for a targeting penalty on the first play of the game, Riggs sat in the locker room while watching the game on a laptop. With family members that traveled all the way from Florida to Missouri to watch the game, the targeting penalty was especially frustrating to Riggs.

"They were really upset," Cody Riggs said. "They don't agree with the rule at all, but they're not on the field. They were really upset just because they came all the way up from South Florida to Columbia and they spent money coming up there to come see the game. My mom was upset that she only got to see me play for 10 seconds."

Riggs was shocked when the call first happened. Breaking in a quarterback to his first career start, Missouri took a shot deep. Riggs thought freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was going to tip the ball, but he made a rare bad read on it. Riggs tried to dislodge the ball with the hit, but instead, a flag came out of the referee's pocket.

On the field, he didn't agree with it. Riggs was trying to make a play on the ball and force an incomplete pass.

"I did launch myself," Riggs said. "I didn't think I did on the field, but if you watch it, I guess I did launch myself. I had no intention of hurting the guy. They made the right call. I just have to play smart next time."

So Riggs spent the rest of the game in the locker room. He was by himself -- except for halftime. A Florida staff member found a laptop for Riggs to watch the game on because the rule keeps the ejected player from being on the sideline.

"You just sit there until the game is over," Riggs said. "It's very tough. They don't let you sit on the sidelines, so I can't talk to my guys, encourage them. You just have to sit in the locker room, no TV in there. Just sitting there -- and it's rough. You're waiting for them to come back in."

Riggs noted that he understands the rule and the intention to decrease concussions in football. The Florida players have heard about it throughout the season, starting with the first fall practice. SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw came to Gainesville and spoke to the team in the fall about the rule.

The Florida coaches knew it would change thing, too. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said that the staff expected before the season that it would be difficult for a safety to make it through the season without getting called for it.

"The officials, when it's a close call, they're going to call it," Durkin said. "That's what they're told to do, and if I was one of them, I'd call it close, too. You can't let one of those slide.

"I don't think Cody lowered his head and targeted. He did end up hitting helmet to helmet but he led with his hands. It was a close call, it could have went either way. Obviously we wish it could've went our way and we could've had Cody for the rest of the game."

The challenge is understanding the rule but not letting it slow the players down on the field. It's still something the players are working on learning how to do. Riggs was the second targeting ejection Florida has experienced this season -- the first coming when Brian Poole was tossed from the Tennessee game in the second half.

The secondary players are still learning how to play fast while not breaking the rule.

"I'm not going to slow up the way I play," Riggs said. "I'm going to keep playing hard. I'm not going to be hesitant when it comes to hitting a receiver that's going across the middle. I'm just going to have to lower my target next time. I'm not going to slow down."


Fightin Gators Top Stories