Fundamentals, discipline and execution are constantly preached at Alabama because they lead to consistency, improvement and success.
But just because a team preaches something so textbook doesn’t mean it always plays by the rules. Literally.
Alabama had at least one penalty in each quarter of last Saturday’s game against Texas A&M. It finished with nine for 82 yards, its second-highest total this season in a category where low numbers are desired.
“I think there’s two different kinds of penalties,” UA coach Nick Saban said Monday. “There’s penalties where guys are trying, like a guy reaches out and gets called for a horse collar when he grabs a guy by the corner of the jersey or whatever. That’s one kind of penalty.”
Linebacker Eyabi Anoma did that and was penalized 15 yards.
“When guys make poor decisions about blocking people in the back or we have substitution errors or illegal procedure or let the shot clock run out because we don’t snap the ball on time, those kind of things you can practice anywhere any time,” Saban said.
And those kind of things showed up against the Aggies.
The Crimson Tide defense got caught with 12 men on the field, and the offense later delayed the game. Offensive linemen Ross Pierschbacher and Lester Cotton Sr. were called for holding on two different plays. Defensive back Trevon Diggs had a pass interference.
On special teams, Jamey Mosley and Ale Kaho both made illegal blocks during separate punt returns. Alex Leatherwood had a false start before a PAT.
“It’s very frustrating,” tight end Hale Hentges said. “You obviously know you were wrong, and now everyone in the stadium knows you were wrong and everyone watching TV knows you were wrong. It’s a humbling experience, but it’s fire for doing things right.”
Because doing things wrong only causes damage: Mosley’s illegal block botched Jaylen Waddle’s 15-yard punt return. Cotton’s holding negated wide receiver DeVonta Smith’s 12-yard reception. Diggs’ pass interference gave Texas A&M a first down.
Every flag has its price.
“Practice how you play,” defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs said. “We have refs in practice to help us with those things — staying on side, all those personal foul penalties. We can’t have that because we don’t want that to come hurt us in the game.”
So far this season, the Crimson Tide has had 31 penalties. That’s 12 flags more than last season’s first four games combined. Alabama never cracked double digits in a single game last year but did in this year’s season opener against Louisville with 10.
“Obviously you want to eliminate penalties,” running back Damien Harris said. “But it’s part of the game, too. You just got to flush it down the toilet and worry about the next play.”
That is, until practice rolls around the next week, because Saban sure isn’t letting the 288 yards Alabama has lost due to penalties this season just flush away.
“Players have to be more disciplined in the choices and decisions that they make,” he said, “and understand the consequences of what they do.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.
Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 1 Alabama
When: Saturday at 11 a.m.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Records: Alabama 4-0, Louisiana-Lafayette 1-2
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 95.3 FM. 102.9 FM