Friday, October 12, 2007

Offensive Penalties

It seems like two things have defined our season this year. The first is injuries. It seems like every player is injured, coming back from injury, or otherwise banged up. I can't remember a year where we had such a rash of guys not available. The other thing is penalties. Silly, crazy, mind-numbing penalties. Penalties that I would call offensive. Not because the offense committed them, but because I'm offended that they keep occurring week-in and week-out.

I recently just generated statistics for all the PAC-10 teams up to last weekend (Sorry, I've been delinquent in keeping those up to date). One interesting section of the stats is the number and type of penalty that each team commits. After looking at those numbers, it confirmed what I've been seeing all season long from this team... tons of procedural penalties. By procedural penalties, I mean stuff that occurs before the play is even executed. False starts, delay of game, illegal motion/shift and my all time favorite: illegal substitution. These are penalties that are 100% avoidable, yet they are occurring with frightening regularity this year.

When you look at our 2007 statistics, the first number that jumps out at you is the number of false starts. By my count, UCLA has committed 16 false starts in our six games. Just to give you a means of comparison, they committed 14 false starts all of last season! In 2005, they had 20 false starts for the entire year! We're only half way through the season and we're already passing up season totals from prior years. Absolutely unbelievable considering that we returned pretty much every offensive starter from last season.

We had two substitution infractions in the 2005 and 2006 seasons combined. We have had three so far this season. Substitution infraction!? That means we had a guy go into the huddle, who wasn't supposed to be there, and he didn't get off the field before the huddle broke. Three times that has occurred. Three times! We can't even get the right personnel on the field? No wonder we're struggling to move the ball.

Last year we had five delay of game penalties, but the coaches worked on fixing that his year. Or so we thought. My stats say two for the year, but I think there might have been more (my numbers aren't always perfect). In either case, we're basically on pace to repeat that number this season even though the clock rules were changed to give you more times between snaps.

When you total up all these dead-ball penalties, you have 25 for the season. That is an average of over 4 such penalties a game. Sadly enough, these penalties occur at some of the most inopportune times. Six times this year we have had a procedural penalty on 3rd and short (by short I mean less than 5 yards). Each of those drives ended in either a field goal (x2), punt (x2), interception, or we lost the ball on downs. We even had a first and goal situation where we had a delay of game. The result of that drive? Field goal. These drive-killing penalties are keeping us out of the end zone.

So, no, it is not just your imagination. UCLA has been suffering both a rash of injuries and a rash of bone-headed penalties. With this bye week, I sure hope the coaches are trying to address both of these issues. They are 100% fixable. The penalties that is, not always the injuries.