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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Utah Utes defensive back Corrion Ballard (15) tackles Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver Kyle Williams (10) and is charged with targeting and ejected from the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — It is not just injuries that have depleted Utah’s defensive lineup.

Two targeting calls in Saturday afternoon’s game mean the Utes had two players ejected during their 30-10 loss to Arizona State who were playing in place of injured starters. Linebacker Donavan Thompson and strong safety Corrion Ballard were called for targeting and will be lost to the Utes for the first half of their upcoming game against Oregon. They were ejected on the same drive in the third quarter.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham expressed frustration with the ambiguity of the application of the rule meant to protect players from the most dangerous types of hits.

“The penalty is a mystery to me,” he said. “I’m still not sure how to coach it.”

One issue with Saturday’s calls was that it appeared, especially in the case of Ballard, that the offensive player’s movement created the helmet-to-helmet collision. Ballard was attempting to tackle ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins when Wilkins slid and their helmets collided.

“I just don’t have a grasp of it because I can’t figure out how it works,” he said. “I think the NFL has a great grasp on it. They have it right. It would be nice if it were along the same lines. I’m still trying to figure out how to teach it.”

Whittingham said that is "challenging" when he’s not sure what is and is not legal. Still, he said it is incumbent upon coaches to figure it out and help train the players in the proper techniques.