Penalties have been a problem for South Alabama this season.
Through 10 games, the Jaguars are last in the country, 131st, in fewest penalties and fewest penalties per game. South Alabama has 88 accepted penalties this season for 797 yards. South Alabama’s opponents in those 10 games, have 51 accepted penalties for 477 yards.
In last week’s 38-21 win over Texas State, the Jaguars were penalized 11 times for 121 yards. Texas State was penalized five times for 45 yards. South Alabama only had three first-half penalties, and none were on the defense. In the second half, South Alabama’s defense was penalized eight times, including twice on one play. Eighty-two of the penalty yards came after halftime.
In the previous game, a 38-31 win at Georgia Southern, South Alabama was penalized 13 times for 118 yards.
Now, the Jaguars have found ways to win, building an 8-2 record thus far. But head coach Kane Wommack said the penalties must stop.
“Each penalty still has to be judged individually, so you can't look at that collectively and say every penalty needs to get corrected,” Wommack said. “We are a very physical team and high-effort team as well so you're going to have some of those, however, the unsportsmanlike penalties in the last two games are truly unacceptable and that starts with me and the urgency to get that corrected needs to be felt through our staff and football team.”
Wommack said the correction can’t come solely from the coaches.
“There needs to be peer accountability in the way that we do things,” Wommack said. “We're going to win football games, but when we do, who do we represent and what do we have to say for ourselves? In a lot of ways, we're representing this university well, but certainly in terms of the unsportsmanlike penalties, that's not representative of how we want to play the game."
A big chunk of the penalties, at least over the past two games, have come on the defensive side of the ball.
“For us, it's twofold,” said South Alabama defensive coordinator Corey Batoon. “The penalties that happen after the snap, those are silly. There's no room for that. You can play right up to the edge and understand, at this point in time, you are making a decision that is more about me than the team. So, just continuing to educate the guys in regards to that. So, just trying to do a good job of understanding what the expectation is play in and play out. And then the holding penalties, we are getting loose with our eyes trying to do too much and play outside the frame of the defense. We just need to tighten those things up.”
As Wommack said, the players have to step forward to help stop the problem.
"It comes from being very disciplined and mature on the field,” said cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. “There are certain things you should know to do and not do on the field, so it's just a lack of maturity and being more responsible on the field."
On Saturday, the Jaguars visit a Southern Miss team that also is troubled by penalties. The Golden Eagles are tied for 106th in the country with 71 penalties for 710 yards through the first 10 games.
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