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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Penalty Problem

For those of you who haven't read it yet, the AJC's Terrence Moore wrote today that he believed there was a link between Georgia's excessive penalties and the on-field celebration against Florida last year.

The good folks over at Georgia Sports Blog and Get the Picture both heartily disagreed.

As some of you may remember, I actually covered this subject a few weeks ago -- but apparently I'm not quite as popular as Moore, who had to shut the comment feature off on his column after all the reader feedback/backlash.

With all due respect to the guys at GSB and GtP -- two of my favorite blogs anywhere -- I think they are a little too quick to dismiss the notion that there is a connection. I like their arguments, and I don't completely disagree, but the statistics do speak for themselves to a certain extent.

Since the celebration, Georgia's penalties have nearly doubled, and that can't completely blamed on youth. After all, Georgia had the same team at the end of last year it had at the beginning, and it should stand to reason that those players GAINED experience, and thus cut down on penalties, as the season went on. But the transition from a rarely penalized team to a heavily penalized one was almost instantaneous.

As I wrote in my story (which predated the Tennessee game, mind you), Georgia had played 11 games (including the Florida game) since the celebration. In 10 of them, they had been flagged for at least 70 yards in penalties. In the 11 games before that, the Dawgs had hit that number just once.

I think there are two primary relationships between the celebration and the increased penalties:

1.) The whole point of the celeration was for Mark Richt to liven up his team, which he said had not been playing with enough energy and enthusiasm. The move worked, and it worked well. But more energy and more enthusiasm can also lead to more aggressiveness, which can lead to more penalties -- particularly things like roughing the passer, which had been a problem for the Dawgs this year. Richt admits he had become lax on punishing the team for penalties after that game because he didn't want them to lose that aggressiveness, but eventually there came a tipping point in which it was causing more harm than good.

2.) The referees saw the celebration and they remember it. I'm not going to say that Georgia hasn't been making too many mistakes in terms of penalties this year, but can any of you who have watched these games honestly say that the refs haven't been a bit over-the-top with some of their calls? The Arizona State game was a disgrace for the refs, in particular, and even last week, Richt said league officials told him two of the flags Georgia received shouldn't have been penalties. Quite frankly, the officiating this season has been dubious at best, and I don't think it's crazy to think that the image of that celebration may still be stuck in a few of the refs' heads as the work Georgia games this year.

Having said all that, the crucial stat is still this: 11-1. That's Georgia's record (including the Florida game) following that celebration. Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad, and even if you believe there is a link between the celebration and the flags, you have to admit it was still the right decision for the Dawgs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I saw Moore's headline, I knew someone had already done that story. I guess congrats are in order, I mean really, you are being plagiarized by a big name paper's guy.