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Controversy and injuries abound during the Cal–USC game

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Injuries and disrespect during the Joe Roth Memorial Game.

NCAA Football: Southern California at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

(Scroll to the bottom of the article for the update.)

Original: The 2019 Joe Roth Memorial Game—when the USC Trojans visited the California Golden Bears—was ugly enough on the scoreboard.

However, the game was rife with controversy and slights perceived by Cal fans.

On the first drive of the game, USC’s redshirt-senior defensive lineman Christian Rector had a big hit on Cal running back Christopher Brown Jr. in which he led with the helmet and was ejected for targeting.

(On a very, very light note, when Rector’s penalty and ejection were announced, Trojan defensive back Olaijah Griffin walked into the camera frame and started dancing in the background. Griffin is infamous (and perhaps beloved) by Cal fans for fighting with Vic Wharton III during the entire 2018 game—and ultimately getting burned for a crucial touchdown.)

During a kick-off to the Trojans in the second quarter, redshirt-freshman linebacker Evan Tattersall was blindsided by a block by Juliano Falaniko; Falaniko appeared to have launched with his helmet striking Tattersall in the upper chest or chin—enough for Tattersall’s head to recoil back. Tattersall was left on the field motionless on the field, prompting medical staff to attend to him. After nearly ten minutes of silence in the stadium, Tattersall was carried off the field with an injury cart as he motioned a thumbs up to the crowd. It is not clear if the officials reviewed the play for targeting, but Falaniko was not ejected and continued to play in the game.

It was reported that Tattersall was alert with “movement in his extremities” and was taken to a local hospital. We also received some good news from his teammate Will Craig:

Coach Wilcox also updated the media regarding Tattersall’s injury after the game was over. He said, “[Evan Tattersall] is in the process of being discharged from the hospital. We will have more information on Monday. Very scary moment. We’ve had some positive news on him in the past 15 minutes.” You can watch the whole statement in the video below.

Additionally, Brown Jr. was apparently injured as well as he was not seen in the game against after the hit by Rector; in the second half, he was on the sidelines without his pads. On top of that, a third Cal injury occurred in the first half to quarterback Chase Garbers in his first game since an “upper-body injury” in late September against the Arizona State Sun Devils. While Garbers was running the ball, USC’s Drake Jackson fell on top of Garbers during the tackle; given Garbers’ recent injury to his upper body, it’s not much of a surprise that Garbers was immediately taken out of the game by medical staff and he would not return.

Lastly, there was an on-field memorial to honor Bryce Turner and his family; Turner was a member of the Cal football team who passed away earlier this year in January. However, the USC band continued to play during the ceremony. While the band would later release an official statement apologizing to the Turner family and to Cal fans for “inadvertently playing”, it was met with skepticism on Twitter. There were allegations that the USC band has done this in the past—coincidentally, at the first Joe Roth Memorial Game and a USC fan accused them of doing the same during tributes to US veterans during their game against ASU.

There were additional allegations that the band would have received instructions and multiple directions to stop playing, but the band continued; one of these allegations is from Matt Ha, a former Cal Mic Man.

There’s no reason to believe USC was intentionally out to injure players and, to his credit, Falaniko immediately signaled that Tattersall needed medical attention. However, USC is the most-penalized team in the Pac-12 and there was one hit officially ruled targeting and another that warranted a second look. To make matters worse, their band’s tendency to continue playing during on-field ceremonies for the home team—particularly those to recognize veterans or during memorial services—is disgusting.

Update: For more on the USC band, a Notre Dame fan has alleged they did the same when the Trojans played the Notre Dame Fighting Irish earlier this season. Furthermore, a user on Twitter identifying themselves as an alumnus of the band has shared their experiences while on the band, corroborating the claims that their band director—Arthur C. Bartner—receives instruction from opposing athletic directors of when not to play, but continues to do so.

Bartner has led the band since 1970, which would match with Leslie Mitchell’s tweet earlier that the band disregarded instruction and chose to play during a memorial to Joe Roth. With this being Bartner’s final year as director, let’s hope the band can be more respectful in the future.

Lastly, we have some good news. Cal Athletics has announced that Tattersall was released from the hospital.