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U of U football’s Devin Lloyd suspended for first half of UCLA game after controversial targeting call

Coach Kyle Whittingham doesn’t believe Lloyd should have been ejected.

Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd (0) brings down Oregon State wide receiver Trevon Bradford (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

When asked about it minutes after a 42-34 loss at Oregon State on Saturday night, Kyle Whittingham didn’t think Devin Lloyd should have been ejected for targeting.

On Monday morning, armed with hindsight and a film review, the University of Utah head coach’s stance had not changed.

“Correct, I do not think it should be called,” Whittingham said. “I do not think it should be called in my estimation. I’m not the one that counts. It was called, so we have to live with it.”

Utah led Oregon State, 31-28, late in the third quarter, but the Beavers were driving. On first-and-10 at the Oregon State 31-yard line, Lloyd was called for targeting on a completed pass that went 15 yards down to the 16. The call stood up after the officials reviewed it, and Lloyd was ejected. The Beavers scored two plays later to take a 35-31 lead.

Losing Lloyd on Saturday was not insignificant, but Whittingham admitted on Monday his defense played poorly even with the All-American linebacker on the field. Utah gave up 260 rushing yards to the Pac-12′s No. 1 rushing defense, and nearly eight yards per play for the night.

The remnants of that targeting ejection will be tangible on Saturday night in a critical Pac-12 South matchup with UCLA (8 p.m., ESPN) as Lloyd is suspended for the first half.

Whittingham did not single out who will replace Lloyd for the first half, but he did indicate that practice reps will be split roughly 50-50, if not slightly more toward Lloyd’s replacement.

“That’s going to be a juggling act,” Whittingham said. “Devin is a very experienced, accomplished guy, he doesn’t need a ton of reps. We’ll probably err on giving the guy starting in place of him more reps.”

Season-ending injuries not being ruled out

Tavion Thomas, Theo Howard and Vonte Davis all left the loss in Corvallis with injuries. Davis, Utah’s starting free safety, was already playing with a cast on his left hand.

Whittingham generally does not comment on injuries unless they are season-ending. But it wasn’t immediately clear Monday morning whether any of those three players would be lost for the season.

“We don’t know for certain, we’re still evaluating that,” Whittingham said. “We should know a lot more by this afternoon.”

Utah was scheduled to go through its normal Monday walkthrough later in the afternoon.

Thomas has emerged as Utah’s top option at running back, but there is depth at the position should he be out long term. The same applies if Howard is out for a while, as three wide receivers have caught at least 12 passes, plus the fact that Utah regularly uses the tight end position as a pass-catching option.

Davis has started all seven games at free safety. If he is out, starting strong safety Brandon McKinney could move over, or Whittingham could plug in Kamo’i Latu, who has started one game, but played in all seven.

Will DTR play?

UCLA star quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson took a handful of punishing hits Saturday against No. 10 Oregon before finally being knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter with what appears to be a right shoulder injury.

Bruins beat writers reported from practice Monday morning that Thompson-Robinson was dressed, but did not throw passes and was clutching the ball with his left hand during a short viewing window for the media.

Thompson-Robinson was not made available to reporters, which is an indication that he might need to make progress during the week in order to play.

“He’s a tough kid, he’ll play,” Whittingham said without knowledge of what was happening at UCLA practice. “He’ll be there, I’ll be shocked if he’s not there.”

If Thompson-Robinson cannot play, second-year freshman Ethan Garbers, a former four-star recruit who transferred to UCLA this fall after spending 2020 at the University of Washington.

Garbers came on in relief of Thompson-Robinson in the middle of the game’s final drive. His interception on second-and-10 from the Oregon 39-yard line helped the Ducks preserve a 35-31 win at the Rose Bowl to remain a co-leader of the Pac-12 North.

“He’s a lot like the Arizona State quarterback (Jayden Daniels), it will be very similar in what he brings to the table,” Whittingham said of Thompson-Robinson. “He is lightning quick, and it’s like another running back on the field essentially.”

In Thompson-Robinson’s only previous game vs. Utah, when he was a sophomore in 2019, he went 20-for-36 for 219 yards with two interceptions in a game the Utes won, 49-3, at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

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