How much did last year’s penalties really matter?

Aside from the turnover situation, the thing about last year’s Georgia squad that got the most attention as being evidence of why the program slipped to a five-loss season was the number of penalties the Dawgs racked up.  Georgia finished 113th nationally in penalties per game and 107th in penalty yardage per game.

But if you look at the record, it’s hard to see how much difference those numbers made as to wins and losses.

First Downs Penalties
Date Opponent Rush Pass Pen Total
09/05/09 Oklahoma St.(10-24) 5 8 3 16 7 58
09/12/09 South Carolina(41-37) 6 8 2 16 13 108
09/19/09 Arkansas(52-41) 4 15 1 20 14 93
09/26/09 Arizona St.(20-17) 5 9 3 17 7 55
10/03/09 LSU(13-20) 1 10 0 11 7 59
10/10/09 Tennessee(19-45) 6 7 0 13 9 79
10/17/09 Vanderbilt(34-10) 8 10 1 19 8 71
10/31/09 Florida(17-41) 5 10 1 16 9 87
11/07/09 Tennessee Tech(38-0) 12 7 1 20 11 86
11/14/09 Auburn(31-24) 10 6 2 18 4 29
11/21/09 Kentucky(27-34) 10 12 0 22 5 75
11/28/09 Georgia Tech(30-24) 15 6 0 21 5 39
12/28/09 Texas A&M(44-20) 9 8 0 17 6 39
Totals 96 116 14 226 105 878

Georgia’s worst numbers came in the South Carolina, Arkansas and Tennessee Tech games – all wins.  For the season, the team averaged 8.5 penalties per game and 65 penalty yards per game in the wins and 7.4 ppg and 71.6 pypg in the losses.

That’s not to say that some penalties don’t hurt more than others.  But the commentary I heard last season didn’t break down the effect penalties were having on Georgia’s performance; it simply focused on overall national rankings as some sort of catch-all rationalization.  And for that, there doesn’t seem to be much of a causal link at all.

If there’s one thing to take heart from, it’s the way the penalty numbers drop fairly precipitously in the final four games of the year.  That coincided with Georgia’s best run of the season with regard to turnovers – even with the four in the Kentucky game.  The team played its most disciplined ball at the end.  Why that was the case – and I’m guessing a stabilized offensive line and a team that got back to running the ball consistently well were the biggest factors – is something the coaches need to identify, raw numbers aside.


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

16 responses to “How much did last year’s penalties really matter?

  1. Scorpio Jones, III

    Penalities are important because the TV weasels talk about them and run crawlers that talk about them.

    All of which adds to our expertise at coaching.


  2. HirsuteDawg

    Just one penalty at the right time can turn a game. That’s why we couldn’t hang on for a win against LSU. I still think the refs in that game and the Florida vs Arkansas were on the take.


  3. Sometimes, I feel like that damn penalty in the OSU games set a bad tone for the whole season. I still defend Jones’ right to make that hit as legal!


  4. Ben

    While some penalties are more costly than others given the time of their occurence, I don’t think it’s one of those situations where the particulars matter. In my thinking, and in looking at those numbers, the penalties coincided with a LOT of poor football being played. In other word, while the penalties may not be indicative of wins/losses absolutely, they are a good barometer of how focused the team is at a given time.

    When the numbers dropped, we saw a better football team, therefore indicating that maybe the team was more focused and more disciplined than they were previously.

    One thing I’d be interested in (kind of) is knowing the types of penalties in each game. I looked at the numbers to get an idea of the avg yardage per penalty, but that doesn’t seem to matter too much.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong and just seeing these things through the lenses of time and looking forward to (hopefully) better things.


  5. MT

    When LSU won their BCS title in 2007, they were in the upper tier of most penalty yards per game.


    • Mike

      Exactly so. Spurrier’s UF teams were some of the heaviest penalty teams too, and they managed to overcome them.

      Someone did an analysis of penalties per game compared to wins last year(Saurian Sagacity?) It showed no positive correlation, and even a slightly negative one


  6. JC in Powder Springs

    Some would say a national leader in penalties reflects an aggressive team. But in the case of UGA it’s closer to the truth to say the fouls are a result of sloppy, undisciplined play – players out of position, not focused, directional kickoffs that go out of bounds, etc. We all know how often dumb mistakes come back to bite you – even for very talented teams like the Dawgs. The little things add up. It’s the difference between a good team that wins 10 games a year vs. a national champion. Until CMR gets these types of issues addressed, our beloved Dawgs won’t be national champs.


  7. chris

    last year is over. lets look forward to this year and quit talking about what happened last year


    • Dog in Fla

      Yeah, but if we didn’t know much about history

      What else would we talk about? Things like Joe’s leadership last preseason? That went over well for us. Us being #1 preseason before last? That went over even better. Lane’s gone. That’s boring enough in and of itself.

      We’ve already talked this preseason about the 3-4 and how Lakatos shut down Garcia in the bowl game.

      Plus it’s useful at least for me to read that Alabama was first and we were last in the league with 4.93 penalties v. 8.08 penalties/game and 42.71 yards/game v. 67.54 ypg. And looking ahead I bet that, if anything, we will see a decrease in the number of penalties against and yardage assessed v. at least our defensive players in 2010.


  8. Thomas Brown

    I watched Alabama. They lined up and I thought to myself in such a pressure situation, will they jump ? Sure can’t have a penalty here. And, they did not. And, they won.

    I have watched my beloved Georgia Bulldogs Football Program NOT LAST YEAR, but the last 4 years in a row AVERAGE # 96 in the nation in penalties.

    I have also in the last 4 years watched us go 1-3 vs Florida, 1-3 vs the vols, 2-2 vs Kentucky and 10-10 vs just The SEC East.

    We’ve lost 14 games the last 4 years.

    Other than just only last year, we also led the nation in arrests/suspensions.

    We have stayed in the press for arrests/suspensions, and not just all little junk, either. We have had 100 arrests/suspensions in the Coach Richt Era already. Except for last year, it has been every year.

    We have stayed in the press for penalties, ones detailed above that cost us in the loss to LSU, the loss to Oklahoma State to name games lost where we gave them touchdowns, just gave them to them.

    And, we stop ourselves on Offense, and put ourselves in silly holes for drives.

    We have lost 8 games to teams not ranked in the Top 25 Final AP Poll the year we lost to them. Oklahoma State is 1 of those 8.

    We have not coached the offense well. Any player analysis of who starts and who is behind them or redshirted instead, just jumps out at you.

    Spring Break and a guy everyone figures is the back-up to the other guy who has had injuries both of the last 2 years already, has 5 charges against him.

    I have no idea how a blog can be written about discipline, leave out the losses to Oklahoma State to begin the season and to LSU to ruin the season, and not correlate the penalties to the arrests/suspensions (other than just only the 1 year last year), and not say we have a problem. In fact, say we don’t.

    You do allude to the fact that when we are not in the press for penalties at the alarming rate of # 96 Average NCAA Rank the last 4 years with 14 losses and only 10-10 vs SEC East teams and arrests/suspensions which other than last year have been an average over 10 a year, that we are in the press for fumbles 21 per year the last 4 years in a row, and in the press for 14 interceptions per year.

    Maybe you can say, let’s not talk about last year, but we have 3 freshmen quarterbacks with all their mistakes coming as we have once again not prepared our quarterbacks.

    Indeed, not prepared anybody for anything.

    And, this has been a problem at least for 4 years in a row now. And, in arrests/suspensions all 10 years of the Coach Richt Era except for last year.

    And, we are losing to teams we should beat 8 losses to unranked teams not in the Top 25 Final AP Poll the year we lost to them in the Coach Richt Era.

    And, we are not beating the good teams, losing 8 of 11 vs teams ranked in the Top 10 of the Final AP Poll the year we played them winning only 3 of 11 in the Coach Richt Era.

    And, we have a losing record to the Top 25 teams in the Final AP Poll the year we played them too at 17-19 in the Coach Richt Era.

    We are NOT Florida State of the 1990’s.

    We are an undisciplined group of players, have been, continue to be, and pardon me, we are in Decline. You cannot ignore all the bad press.


  9. Mayor of Dawgtown

    One of the problems about being a highly penalized team is that when someone (i.e. crooked refs) wants to manipulate the outcome of a game it is simple to pull out the laundry. The phony penalty gets lost in all the other flags. If you are not getting penalized all game and, at the end, a flag gets thrown at a crucial moment that flips the game around, it is a lot harder for the refs (and the league office) to hide from scrutiny. Even though the Dawgs were penalized a lot last year (and in years before) the rhubarb created by the phony “celebration” call near the end of the LSU game caused a change in behavior among the refs for the rest of the season. Imagine the furor if the Dawgs had been a national leader in teams that do not incur penalties. There might have actually been an investigation of those refs (which, by the way, I have been calling for all along) which would be a big deterrent to that type of misconduct in the future. Don’t incur penalties and they can’t flag you whenever they want to flag you.


    • Dog in Fla

      So that’s why the refs have adopted saturation bombing as the preferred delivery system for magical flags in the The SEC.


  10. MauiDawg

    I have contended for a while now that the SEC officiating crew needs to be completely replaced. Not just for the disparity in some of UGA games but other SEC games as well. Especially the ones you get those head scratching spreads on and line shifts more than 2 times leading up to the game.

    I challenge anyone to make a stat sheet showing the significance of the “subjective” calls in significant games and at significant game changing moments.