Lots of penalties doesn't always equal a loss

September, 25, 2008

In fishing around some stats about Tennessee's penalty woes this season (more on the drop-off below), I noticed something. If you look at this year and the 2007 season, there seem to be two characteristics common among the top 10 least penalized teams: one, there were many schools that are usually pegged as "the academic schools" in 1-A football (In the '07 stats, Army and Navy were tied for No. 1, which probably shouldn't be a surprise given how vital discipline is at those schools, followed by UVA at No. 7, Air Force at No. 8 and then a tie at No. 9 with Vandy and Northwestern). The other thing I noticed was that many of these schools this season are in the northeast. Boston College is the least penalized team in the country thus far, followed by Pitt at No. 2 and then a two-way tie at third among Navy and Vandy with Syracuse at No. 5

The rest of the top 10: Ball State at No. 6; Army and Tulsa tied at No. 7; and UCONN and Mizzou tied at No. 9. That's six schools from the northeast in the top 10 alone if you consider Navy as part of the northeast.

I'm curious if this has more to do with players being perhaps more aggressive around the rest of the country or maybe the refs are a little more involved in the games?

The thing that really jumped out at me: committing a lot of penalties doesn't necessarily mean you are playing losing football. This leads me to the most eye-popping stat of all: the combined record of the five MOST penalized teams in college football thus far: 19-0.

#118 Georgia 4-0

#118 Texas Tech 4-0

#117 Utah 4-0

#116 Florida 3-0

#115 TCU 4-0

"I think some of that might be because in the early part of the season you're playing a lot of second-team guys," reasoned Jim Donnan. "So many guys are getting in games that are trying to be aggressive and are anxious to make a play and impress the coach. The stuff I'd worry about is when guys get flagged for pushing someone after the whistle."

Tech coach Mike Leach, the guy who loves pirates more than anyone I've ever met, has an interesting take on this as well. "I've thought about that, and in our case, we wouldn't be in the top five if you removed our first game (18 penalties), where we were really aggressive and sloppy," he said. "We were too close to the edge, although it's not unusual for us to be up there. Thing is, if you look at the list of some of those least penalized teams. There's a lot of really bad teams there, and maybe they're not pushing the envelope enough. Maybe they're saying 'We'll at least we're disciplined.'

Disciplined my (butt). You're just afraid to play hard.

"John Wooden used to say teams that make the most mistakes will win and that means don't let the fear of failure keep you from playing aggressively.

"The other part of it is, if you open it up like we do and like Florida does and some of these other teams do, you have more individual matchups where two people are isolated and you can see what's happening better than say if we just hand it to a running back and everybody wedge-blocks up the middle."

Leach says there are three kinds of penalties:

  1. Those from bad technique such as holding a guy.
  2. "Dumb" penalties like a false start or jumping offsides. "If the football doesn't move and you do, you're a bit of an idiot," says Leach.
  3. Selfish penalties like celebrating in the end zone. He also said that the post-play celebrations should just be ruled "delay of game" penalties, but that is a subject for another day.


•Some impressive trash talk from the coaches in the USF-NC State game as Bulls D-coordinator Wally Burnham fired back at the Wolfpack for a comment made last week, writes Greg Auman:

USF's defense took a shot from N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien, who told reporters he saw no reason to consult with the Bulls about stopping the spread offense, as Ohio State and Colorado coaches did in the offseason after USF beat West Virginia for the second year in a row.

"Did you watch them against Oregon?" O'Brien asked, referencing the Ducks' 56-21 trouncing of the Bulls in the Sun Bowl.

"Go look at that game. That was the spread that they were defending. I'm not saying anything about South Florida's defense, but if they're the gurus, we'd better go somewhere else."

Burnham, asked about the quote Tuesday, laughed for a moment and said he agreed with O'Brien's statement, though he questioned the need for it.

"Here's the way I feel about it: He's right. We're not gurus," Burnham said. "On the other hand, we try to handle things professionally and not say anything...with class, not say anything about anyone else's coaching staff. He can say what he wants to. The other thing, I forget what bowl game they were in. That's all I've got to say."

That's pretty spectacular stuff right there.

•I wouldn't put this in the same category, but there's also been a little more spice (not that it needed any) to the Alabama-Georgia game. According to Chip Towers, "Mark Richt responded Wednesday to the video leaked Tuesday from Alabama's practice in which a strength coach tells the team the Bulldogs are wearing black because they're attending their own funeral. Richt walked into the team-meeting room for his post-practice briefing Wednesday wearing a black hat, black shirt and black shorts. "I'm going to a funeral," he said with a mischievous grin."

•A guy who planned on spending his final season at Clemson as a student assistant to O-line coach Brad Scott is now expected to start this weekend against Maryland thanks to more injuries. Fifth-year senior Bobby Hutchinson is slated to make his first career start because Tiger left guard Jamarcus Grant, himself a former back-up to David Smith, suffered a slight shoulder sprain Tuesday and hasn't practiced much the past two days, reports Larry Williams.

Hutchinson does have some game experience though. He got some action, playing 37 snaps in Clemson's 24-18 win over No. 19 Florida State last year. According to the amazingly well detailed bios on Clemson's site, Hutchinson had 14 knockdown blocks in his 174 snaps in 2007 and averaged 15.8 snaps in his 11 games.

Just how beat up are the Tigers? They will start their fourth different lineup on the offensive line Saturday. Clemson practiced without shoulder pads Wednesday because head coach Tommy Bowden said the team "is as beat up as I can remember."

•One of the big reasons why Tennessee has flopped thus far is because the Vols have been very undisciplined, writes Wes Rucker.

"Tennessee is 113th in penalties per game, and 107th in penalty yards per contest. UT has been penalized 26 times for 215 yards through this season's first three games."

Worth noting: last year Tennessee was 18th in penalties and had just 74 penalties in 14 games. They're on pace to commit 104 in just 12 games this season. It's not a stretch to think that all of the shake-up on the UT coaching staff might be partly to blame.

•I didn't know there was a connection between two of the best players in the state of North Carolina till I read this story by Dan Collins:

"Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry wouldn't be the first person in his family picked in the NFL Draft. His father, Reggie Pinkney, was a star defensive back at East Carolina who was drafted by Detroit in the sixth round in 1977 and played five seasons with the Lions and Colts. Curry's half-brother is Patrick Pinkney, a senior quarterback at East Carolina. Both are 22 and both grew up in Fayetteville. Curry, whose mother is Chris Curry, played for E.E. Smith High School. Patrick, whose mother is Rose Pinkney, played for Pine Forest High School.

"We always spent the weekends together, playing football and basketball and things like that," Curry said. "We all just played throw the ball up in the air and whoever catches it, tackle him."

•Credit new Texas DC Will Muschamp and some added maturity for getting former blue-chipper Sergio Kindle to add a spark to the UT defense. Kindle's career at UT had been more down than up prior to this season and it sounds like there was some friction between his old high school coach Bobby Estes and then-linebackers UT coach Larry Mac Duff, who had limited Kindle's playing time because he struggled with pass defense, writes Jimmy Burch:

"My probably inappropriate comment back to him was, 'Thoroughbreds don't run backward,'" Estes said. "We taught him some pass drops, but [realized] he was more likely to sack the guy before he threw the ball, anyway."

So, they turned him loose to rush the passer at Woodrow Wilson. Just like Muschamp is doing at Texas, where Kindle shifts to a defensive end role in the team's five- and six-deep coverage packages. How long did it take Muschamp to identify Kindle, who missed spring drills because of ankle surgery, as one of his featured rushers? "The first day of pass rush in fall camp," Muschamp said. "He's a very explosive, fast-twitch guy who gives us some juice off the edge. We're not going to waste him, dropping him in coverage, when the best thing he does is pass rush."

Last season UT was 54th in the country in sacks with 28 in 13 games. The Horns are 10th this season.

•The toughest Iowa Hawkeye football player? Try the wonderfully named Pat Angerer, Iowa's MLB

Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown's got nothing on this former Bettendorf prep star who moved into the starting lineup Sept. 13 against Iowa State, writes Randy Peterson.

"I haven't had much time lately, but at some point, I want to hook up with Miletich Fighting Systems," Angerer said of the mixed martial arts school founded in 1997 by Pat Miletich of Bettendorf. "I'd like that someday, I really would. I can see myself doing that, and I can see myself being pretty good."

In case you were wondering, the 6-1, 232-pound junior lettered twice in wrestling in high school.

•Speaking of curiously named players, the future Kansas QB could be Kale Pick.

•Good test this weekend for the improved Wisconsin O-line at Michigan. As Jeff Potrykus reports, the Badgers are only team in the league and one of just four nationally that has not allowed a sack this season. That is a noteworthy improvement over last season, when UW surrendered five sacks in its first three games. The Badgers finished with 33 sacks allowed, the second worst total in the Big Ten, for 225 yards in losses.

The reasons: better technique up front and Badger OC Paul Chryst demanded his quarterbacks do a better job this season reading through their progressions and getting the ball out on time. Allan Evridge has done that and in several instances fired a strike just before he was leveled. "For the most part I'd like to say 98% of it is the guys up front doing a good job," Evridge said.

•Nice work by some Alabama football players helping to pull a driver out of an overturned truck.

•Talk about making your throws count. Tulsa's David Johnson is No. 6 in the country in passing yardage with more than 20 percent fewer attempts than anyone in the top 10. As the Tulsa Beacon points out, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell has 350 more passing yards but almost double the attempts of Johnson.

Who would've guessed a decade ago that the state of Oklahoma could have the two top-rated passers in the country (Johnson is one, OU's Sam Bradford is #2, while Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson is #8).

•Just how much of an impact has the Class of 2008 had thus far at Maryland? Patrick Stevens has the breakdown.

Nice story about Boise State players getting involved in the community as personal shoppers for kids.



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