It appeared that Hamlin was making a play on the ball when a North Carolina receiver dove and attempted to make a catch.
“I just tried to make a play on the ball,” Hamlin said. “How much of a right (does the receiver) have to the ball, and how much of a right do I have to the ball as well? I think that’s a question for people higher up than me to answer.”
Hamlin is arguably the most critical guy in the Panthers secondary, and his absence showed in the second half against the Tar Heels. Hamlin had five solo tackles before the targeting call and was essentially the quarterback for the Panthers secondary.
“I’m thinking that I just made a good play on the ball and that I had me an interception,” Hamlin said. “(I was) celebrating with my teammates and then I turn around and see flags. Then we were all looking up at the review board watching the play, and I’m just thinking ‘I hope they don’t get me.’ But. They did.”
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell threw for 181 yards and two touchdowns all in the second half with Hamlin in the locker room. North Carolina came back from down 14 points in the fourth quarter and forced overtime.
“I had a big role in that game,” Hamlin said. “I was covering the slot (receiver), and he kind of took off a little bit when I was out of the game.”
Hamlin was watching the game on television by himself and had some mixed feelings.
“It’s the worst feeling in the world (not being with your teammates),” Hamlin said. “You see plays that you could be making. There are just all types of stuff happening on the field, and you not being able to do anything.”
But Hamlin was undoubtedly relieved that his teammates pull through in the end, and they survived with a win.
“Seeing us come out with the with, just erased everything for me honestly,” Hamlin said. “It was stressful. It took everything in me to stay in that locker room (for the remainder of the game).
Hamlin said the first person that he talked to after the game about the call was Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke. Hamlin was asked if Lyke had liked the call, and Hamlin replied, “No one did.”
Hamlin’s coach was thinking the same way when it came to justifying the call and just how important of a play it was when it came down to UNC being able to claw back and make it a nail bitter.
“Probably the play of the game was when (Hamlin) went for an interception and they called targeting,” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said following his teams win. “Which, I guess, I don’t know what targeting is anymore.”
The good news for the Panthers is that Hamlin will be able to play in their most crucial game of the season to date when they travel to Blacksburg, VA, on Saturday to face the Virginia Tech Hokies who have won four straight ACC games.