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Duke’s Jela Duncan has helmet ripped off on the way to the end zone… and the play is blown dead

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

The helmet rule, which requires a player to miss a play if he losses his helmet, has been a big source of debate this season because coaches have contended that defensive players are intentionally trying to rip off helmets for an advantage.

What started out as a safety precaution by the NCAA has actually backfired and created some pretty scary moments, especially today during the Duke-Wake Forest game and the N.C. State-Miami game.

[Related: WVU's Geno Smith the most exciting thing in college football]

Duke running back Jela Duncan was heading for a possible touchdown when linebacker Justin Jackson grabbed his facemask and ripped the helmet off Duncan's head. Duncan kept running, but the play was called down and Jackson was given a personal foul penalty.

This particular play constitutes a clear defensive advantage. Duncan had a path to the end zone with blockers in front, but because his helmet was ripped off by a defender - a beaten defender - the play was called back and a penalty was assessed. Duke ultimately scored on the drive, but if it hadn't, Duncan's helmet would have made the difference in the 34-27 game.

Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett, who caught the game-winning pass later in the game, had his helmet ripped off by linebacker Rickey Dowdy during a tackle. Despite Dorsett's pleas, there was no penalty on that play.

While these are two extreme examples of helmets seemingly being taken off on purpose, it's happening far more than usual and the rule should be reexamined before someone ends up injured.

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