Jim Mora says new targeting penalty is worst rule change he’s seen in football

SAN BERNARDINO — During a recent fall camp practice, one of the officials brought in to help UCLA suppress penalties approached Jim Mora. One of the hits, he told the Bruins’ head coach, would have resulted in an ejection.

Forty-five minutes after the session ended, the official changed course: Upon further review, there wasn’t enough evidence that the player had targeted a defenseless opponent.

“Well, OK, so do I get to now bring in, ‘Go put your stuff back on, get back out’?” Mora said Thursday. “How does that work? I don’t like it.”

Such is the fault in human judgment. Tweaks to the college football rulebook have greatly increased the penalty for football players who aim at an opponent’s head or neck — especially with intent that exceeds a legal tackle or block. In the past, the punishment was a 15-yard penalty.

Now, officials can also eject a player from the game after a video review. If the penalty occurs in the second half, the player must also sit out the first half of his next game.

“The ramifications are so drastic,” Mora said. “You’re talking about kicking a kid out of a game. The way that could affect his team and the way that it could affect his career, I don’t like it at all.

“In my opinion, and I’ve been coaching for 29 years, it’s the worst rule I’ve ever heard of. And I’m not overstating that.”

The second-year coach added that the team will deal with the rule, and stressed the importance of safely dealing with head injuries. At Pac-12 Media Day last month, All-American linebacker Anthony Barr said he understood the new targeting rule but wasn’t sure if he could fully adjust his style.

“I’m going to play within the rules that I’ve always played and play like I’ve always played, full speed and attacking,” Barr said then. “If I get penalized because of it, then so be it, but I’m going to play the way I play football.”


For a few minutes Thursday afternoon, the field on the east end of Cal State San Bernardino fell silent.

Starting left tackle Simon Goines went down with a hyperextended knee when UCLA went to live contact, crumpling to the ground in pain. Helped off the field, the sophomore limped to the trainer’s table and had ice strapped to his leg.

Mora said the hyperextension was minor and will not require an MRI, but the rash of injuries to the Bruins over the past week has prompted him to limit contact. Several players are working back from concussions, and still others have been limited by ailments ranging from a tight back to dehydration.

“I don’t want to put us in situations where there’s 22 UCLA Bruins going after each other,” Mora said. “If you had a scrimmage against another team … you’d have 11 UCLA Bruins on the field at one time. So your chances of someone getting injured are cut in half.”

He added that the Bruins “hit a little bit of a wall” in their 11th practice at CSUSB. After fairly mild weather last week, temperatures have started hitting triple digits in the Inland Empire.


A year removed from surgery on his torn left ACL, receiver Eldridge Massington said he’s finally starting to trust his knee again. The freshman still hasn’t regained the top-end speed he had as a high school track athlete, but he’s finishing routes a stronger than he did even just a week ago.

“He’s starting to see the speed of the game, to see how fast he has to play,” receivers coach Eric Yarber said. “Starting to not think about his knee as much. The last three, four, maybe five practices, he’s been on the rise.”

There still isn’t a timetable to remove the brace that protects Massington’s knee during practice. Even with it on, though, the 6-foot-3 four-star recruit is starting to look like a rotation receiver.

He has also lost 15 pounds since spring, down to 205.

“Coach Mora said I looked a little overweight, a little chubby,” Massington said. “I couldn’t have him telling me that, so I had to slim down a little bit.”

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  • Scott

    The beginning of the season is going to be a nightmare across the nation as referees grapple with the new tackling rule. Get ready for the referees to exert even more influence over the game and possibly change the outcome of games.

  • Joe Blow

    Too bad Mora will now have to change his instruction to the kids on tackling.

    • Candid One

      Mora has to know that the NFL already has targeting rules–and fines.

      • Joe Blow

        Wants our guys to take cheap shots like Woodie did.

        • UCLA Owns the Rose Bowl

          Alright, Lil’ Joe, back to pUSC land with you now. “We.” Very funny.

  • disqus_Yx41zGTfnp

    “The ramifications are so drastic?” How about Marcus Wheaton out for two games last year due to a concussion after a cheap shot from a Huskie defender? Is that too drastic for Mora? I like the fact that the play has video review because ejecting a player is serious and the officials should be sure. But 15 yards isn’t going to deter this kind of playing and coaching. Not when so many in the game and the media talk about “swagger” like it’s a good thing.

  • m00t

    So Anthony Barr’s crushing hit on Barkley last season, would be a penalty?
    It effecively ended Barks college career, but I thought it was a clean hit, even it it crippled USC for the foreseeable future.

  • Candid One

    Someone should tell Anthony Barr that changing how he plays this year will save him fines in the NFL which already has its targeting rules.

  • aferto

    Mora doesn’t like the idea of not seriously injuring members of the opposing team? Shocker.

    His reasoning falls apart with the simple concept that none of his players will be getting ejected from ANY game.. as long as they don’t hit someone’s head or neck, which isn’t a necessary component of the game since you can make a stop without doing that.

    To him a player sitting out a game might be, “too serious,” but what’s actually too serious is a career-ending head injury or breaking someone’s neck.

    There’s no reason why anyone playing at the college level and seriously considering the NFL should be hitting their opponents’ neck/head. You should be able to make a stop without doing that. Perhaps Mora should tell his players to play clean, instead of whining about a protective rule.