Even the most casual of fans on Saturday had to notice the vast number of Oregon State players that wound up getting injured on Saturday night in the Beavers’ 35-10 loss to USC. The injuries were beyond unfortunate, and severely slowed down the second half of the game.
On Tuesday, Oregon State coaches talked to the media about the severity of some of the injuries, including those suffered by two defensive tackles, Jalen Grimble and Noke Tago.
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Both players have lower body injuries, with Grimble out for up to a month, and Tago’s ailment being of the season-ending variety.
The culprit? According to Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker –a candidate to replace Monte Kiffin two years ago– it was the Trojans’ use of chop blocks.
“You don’t know if it was done on purpose or not,” Banker told Connor Letourneau of the The Oregonian. “But I just think the technique was questionable.”
And he’s right, as chop blocks and cut blocks are a major talking point in the coaching community. Not only is there a debate over the danger and ethics involved in cut blocking, but the legality of the blocks is blurred, as Letourneau points out:
"NCAA rules state that chops blocks — blocks at or below thigh level on defensive players being blocked above the waist by another offensive player — are not fouls if the defensive player initiates contact. Given the wording of the rule, Banker said, “every offensive line coach in America” would say the blocks that injured Grimble and Tago were legal. But “it was pretty damn close,” Banker added."
Neither of the two injuries drew penalties, and when legal, they’re cut blocks. And that’s notable, as we’ve seen so far this season that chop blocks have been an area of emphasis for referees in the Pac-12.
In the three games officiated with Pac-12 referees, chop blocks have been called a total of four times. Only one of those penalized USC, which came in garbage time vs. Fresno State. The most memorable of the penalties was called on Stanford, which negated a Kevin Hogan touchdown pass that could have been the difference in the game.
Going forward, we’ll be on the look out to see if a trend forms in terms of injuries and/or penalties. Obviously, no one wants to see players injured, and you’d have to hope there wasn’t any intent in the blocks that Banker called out.