Pac-12 teams among the most penalized in the country
After being assessed a season-high 12 penalties in their 21-13 victory Friday night at California, the Washington Huskies are on pace to set a school record in that department.
Washington now has 72 penalties for the season, an average of eight a game. It’s a pace that would give the Huskies 96 for the season, which would be the most for a UW team, though it would fall just shy of the record number of average penalties per game of 8.4 when the 1998 team had 93 in 11 games.
To some observers, the penalties might speak to a young team that needs better focus and discipline on game day.
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It might also, though, simply be part of playing in the Pac-12.
Eight Pac-12 teams rank among the bottom 20 teams in the NCAA in penalties per game this week, beginning with Arizona at No. 100 and concluding with UCLA at No. 119. UW is 115th. Every team in the Pac-12 ranks 56th or lower, with the exception of Arizona State, which with just 35 penalties is fifth in the nation.
Washington and Cal combined for more than half that number by themselves Friday night in Berkeley — 19 — in the latest Pac-12 penalty-fest.
With the exception of the 2009 overtime game at Notre Dame when UW got hit with 13 penalties, the 12 penalties Friday was most for the Huskies since 2000.
USC coach Lane Kiffin is among those Pac-12 coaches who have recently spoken of the apparent flag-happy nature of conference officials.
“Obviously, those numbers have to speak to officials calling games tighter in the conference,” Kiffin told Los Angeles reporters last week. “That doesn’t mean that’s good or bad, it just is what it is.”
Monday, during his regular weekly news conference, UW coach Steve Sarkisian sung a similar tune.
“There’s a lot of penalties called,” he said. “But like I said to the team, as long as everybody’s getting the same penalties called on them and it’s a level playing field — that’s all you can ask for. But there’s some stuff we definitely want clarification on so that we don’t get the same penalties called on us in the future.”
In fact, Sarkisian said he reached out to the conference to find out what the ruling was on a few of the calls made against UW on Friday.
“Not that all I do is defend our players, by no means — we have to be realistic and understand when we’re right and when we’re wrong,” he said. “But probably half of them that got called on us, I don’t agree with. … Some of the things called we didn’t agree with we sent it into the Pac-12, and we’ll see what the response is.”
Sarkisian later got the response, and he said the conference said that four of the calls against the Huskies in that game were incorrect.
Washington already has almost equaled the 78 penalties it had last season in its full 13-game schedule. The high for UW under Sarkisian is 83 in 2009 (12 games) and 2010 (13 games).
Not that getting called for fewer penalties is a sure sign of success. The fewest number of penalties for UW since 1980 came in the 0-12 season of 2008 when the Huskies were flagged just 56 times. Coaches often say that some penalties are a sign of hard, aggressive play and simply unavoidable.
“You play the hand you’re dealt,” Sarkisian said. “We can’t control what gets called and what doesn’t. I thought our kids played a really hard, physical game.”
Washington has been called for 30 penalties in the past three games. Sarkisian said last week he would make avoiding penalties an emphasis in practice after UW was called for eight (14 flags were actually thrown, but only eight accepted) against Oregon State.
But he also knows penalties are going to happen. And he said last week one of the keys for his team is to be able to quickly set aside the frustration when calls are made.
“I necessarily don’t have to agree with all of them, but ultimately it’s their call and that’s their job,” he said. “You want an explanation of why things get called and then you move forward. I think we’ve learned that from the past you can get stuck harboring thoughts about penalties and then the game is going on right in front of you. So you have to move past it.”
While Washington is limiting the release of information regarding injuries, Sarkisian said none of the injuries suffered by players in the game Friday should keep anyone out Saturday against Utah.
That would include cornerback Desmond Trufant, who did not play the second half because of a hamstring injury, and defensive linemen Talia Crichton, Josh Banks and Pio Vatuei, who all left with injuries.
“We’re a little banged up, we’re a little beat up,” Sarkisian said. “… I don’t think anything will be a significant time where somebody’s out. I just think it’s guys getting banged up, and that’s football in November. But I’ll know more on that tomorrow (Tuesday) as guys have another day to respond.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org