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Dick Harmon: Local college football teams suffered a rash of injuries in October

Published: Tuesday, July 28 2015 3:59 p.m. MDT

Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) walks back to the locker room after an injury in the first half against BYU at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) walks back to the locker room after an injury in the first half against BYU at Romney Stadium on Friday, October 4, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

October is gone. And it’s a good thing for football teams in the state of Utah.

October is the bogeyman for college football injuries, according to experts in the field.

In Utah, October began with Utah State losing its program’s poster quarterback, Heisman hopeful Chuckie Keeton. The month ended with BYU losing three-game starter and second-leading tackler Austen Jorgensen, who had knee surgery to clean up nagging career issues, and punt returner JD Falslev, who broke his hand at a team activity at the Provo Beach Resort.

Why is October the most injury-centric month in a football season?

Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers Association, believes it is likely that October injuries increase from fatigue and teams not adjusting their conditioning programs as the season wears on.

Utah's Jake Murphy fights for yardage downfield while being tackled by Oregon State's Malcolm Marable during the first half of a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013.  (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah's Jake Murphy fights for yardage downfield while being tackled by Oregon State's Malcolm Marable during the first half of a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

I’m not saying Utah, USU and BYU are not adjusting their conditioning, but you can’t dismiss the fact that October comes at a critical time when bodies are stressed, players get tired, and the fallout of this organized physical fight takes a toll.

Quoted in “The System,” a best-selling book released this fall, Thornton said, "By October, you have to realize they have been through spring conditioning, summer conditioning camp and a season that has hitting, collisions, etc., associated with it and they get tired. Subsequent to all this, the conditioning they get sometimes is not focused on what will prevent these injuries; rather, it is focused only on overall strength and getting ‘big.’”

It’s hard to say that Falslev’s injury came because of fatigue, but it was strange that this slot receiver and punt returner, who’d faced multiple collisions and tackles, would take a freakish spill and break his hand while at a water resort.

Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver JD Falslev (12) takes the reverse from Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (4) during a game at Lavell Edwards Stadium on Friday, October 25, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver JD Falslev (12) takes the reverse from Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill (4) during a game at Lavell Edwards Stadium on Friday, October 25, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Last year, the most publicly viewed injury to a college player happened on national television in Williams-Brice Stadium when South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore took a shot on his knee by Tennessee’s Eric Gordon. The hit buckled Lattimore’s knee like an accordion.

This year at BYU, a veteran member of the team’s medical staff said he can’t remember kneeling this many combined minutes in his career as he’s waited for Cougar players to wake up from being knocked out cold. Those players include running back Jamaal Williams, kick returner Adam Hine, safety Daniel Sorensen and defensive back Mike Hague.

Here’s a rundown of Aggie, Ute and Cougar players who have missed games this past month due to injuries. At Utah, coach Kyle Whittingham does not discuss specifics on injuries, so the Ute report was supplied by Deseret News Utah beat reporter Dirk Facer.

The number of games missed in October are included in parentheses.

UTAH STATE

RB Joe Hill, knee (3 games) — season-ending injury occurred in September

QB Chuckie Keeton, knee (3 games) — season-ending injury occurred in October

S Brian Suite, concussion (1/2 game) — injury occurred in October

LB Jarom Baldomero, hamstring (1/2 game) — injury occurred in October

TE D.J. Tialavea, foot (3 games) — season-ending injury occurred in October

OL Kyle Whimpey, knee (3 games) — season-ending injury occurred in September

UTAH

QB Travis Wilson, sprained index finger (1/2 game)

TE Jake Murphy, broken wrist (4 games)

TE Westlee Tonga, leg (4 games)

WR Kenneth Scott, ankle (4 games) — season-ending injury occurred in September

LB Jacoby Hale, injury unknown (2 games)

S, LB Brian Blechen, tendinitis (4 games) — missed entire season

BYU

RB Mike Alisa, groin injury (4 games)

C Terrance Alletto, stingers (3 games)

FS Craig Bills, concussion (1 game)

LB Tyler Beck, hamstring injury (1 game)

DB Mike Hague, hip/quad injury (1 game)

KR Adam Hine, concussion (1 game)

CB Drew Reilly, shoulder injury (2 games)

OL Brock Stringham, shoulder injury (1 game)

DL Logan Taele, knee injury, (2 games)

LB Sae Tautu, concussion (2 games)

TE Brett Thompson, eye injury, (1 game)

WR Eric Thornton, groin injury, (2 games)

OL De'Ondre Wesley, concussion (1 game)

LB Austen Jorgensen, knee (0 games)

PR JD Falslev, broken hand (0 games)

Both Utah and BYU have bye weeks this week, which will prove beneficial to Ute quarterback Wilson and Cougar safety Sorensen heading into big games against Arizona State and Wisconsin, respectively.

“This has come at a great time. We have been holding on by a thread,” said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall of his team's bye. “It comes at a great time especially when we’ll be facing a tough, physical team in Wisconsin.”

Concussions have been rampant at BYU. When Williams went out cold, his arm was paralyzed (stinger left it numb) until the early morning hours the next day. With concussions, there are protocols and most of the time concussed players can’t remember where they are, what they just did, what part of the game they just played in, or the score.

When Hague got knocked out against Boise State on the Bronco sideline, coaches — even BSU’s Chris Petersen — and medical personnel waited closely by to see what memory loss he had.

“Did I make the tackle?” asked Hague. “Did I make the tackle?”

“Yes,” someone replied, “you made the tackle.”

Well, there are concussions, then there are concussions.

This week’s picks:

Wisconsin 28, Iowa 21: Badgers get back on track for home game with Cougars.

Arizona 38, Cal 14: Wildcats have too much firepower for Bears.

Texas 38, Kansas 10: Longhorns step over the doormat.

Auburn 28, Arkansas 17: An SEC game that Auburn can flex its muscles in.

Missouri 37, Tennessee 20: The newcomer is clearly better than the old-timer.

UCLA 28, Colorado 10: Bruins use this as a tune-up game.

Utah State 28, Hawaii 17: Aggies welcome Norm Chow to Logan.

Last week 6-1; Overall 56-20 (.722)

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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