Penalty Problems: Texas Tech reverts to old ways against Arizona

STATESBORO, GA - SEPTEMBER 3: Referees meet at midfield before the Georgia Southern Eagles take on the Savannah State Tigers on September 3, 2016 at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images)
STATESBORO, GA - SEPTEMBER 3: Referees meet at midfield before the Georgia Southern Eagles take on the Savannah State Tigers on September 3, 2016 at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Texas Tech football team reverted to some frustrating old habits in regard to penalties in its loss to Arizona.

All season, we are going to monitor the Texas Tech football team’s efforts in fixing the program’s long-running penalty woes.  As we look at the Arizona game, one can’t help but be disappointed to see that Tech reverted back to some dangerous and frustrating old habits after playing with discipline in the first two games.

Against both Montana State and UTEP, the Red Raiders were penalized only four times.  In week one, Tech was assessed a mere 29 penalty yards and in week two only 50.

Perhaps it was because it was the season’s first road game or because the competition was tougher but against Arizona, the Red Raiders looked more like the teams we’ve seen in recent years.  Saturday night, Matt Wells’ team was flagged seven times for 60 yards while Arizona was penalized just five times for 37 yards.

As you shall soon see, the Red Raiders cost themselves dearly with some of their mistakes.  And to make matters even more maddening, almost all of Tech’s flags came as a result of mental lapses.

Perhaps it was not a good omen when Tech was whistled for a false start prior to its first play of the game.  Later on that same drive, another false start turned a very makeable 3rd-and-3 into a 3rd-and-8 that the offense did not convert.

In the second quarter, Terence Steele was penalized for holding on a 1st-and-10 play.  Making his first appearance of the season, it is easy to understand how the senior tackle could have been rusty and might have struggled with his technique leading to this flag.  Still, this play proved to be a drive-killer as Tech would not recover and was forced to punt three plays later.

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One of the more memorable penalties of this game was Des Smith’s targeting foul late in the second quarter.  It was an easy call for the officials as Smith went head-to-head with the ball carrier who was already in the grasp of a defender and headed towards the ground.  Smith was ejected from the game but will not have to miss the first half against Oklahoma next Saturday because this foul occurred in the first half.

This is not Smith’s first ejection for targeting though.  Last year, he was disqualified from the season opener against Ole Miss for the same violation.

Another costly personal foul he had came last year against Texas.  With the Longhorns facing a 3rd-and-33 following back-to-back sacks, Smith needlessly grabbed the facemask of the receiver he was covering despite the fact that the ball had already been thrown to the other side of the field.

The result was a new set of downs for the Horns who would take their second chance all the way to the endzone three plays later to go up 10-7.  In a game that was decided by one touchdown, that play was a killer.

"“You won’t see any undisciplined, unsportsmanlike acts,” Keith Patterson said of his defense during fall camp.  “I’m telling you right now, you won’t see that.”"

Saturday night, Smith proved his defensive coordinator wrong.  The senior from Odessa has proven to be an undisciplined player throughout his career and given the depth Tech now has in the secondary, Patterson should take this opportunity to send a message to both the player and the rest of his defense and bench Smith for the OU game.  Perhaps that will finally deliver the message.

Another player who turned Patterson into a liar was senior safety Douglas Coleman.  After intercepting Khalil Tate with 17 seconds to play in the first half, he was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting the Arizona sideline and shooting his mouth off to referee Mike Defee.

Though video surfaced that showed Defee grabbing ahold of Coleman to deliver a lecture, causing many Tech fans to cry foul, had Coleman just kept his mouth shut in the first place and gone to celebrate his great play with his teammates on his own sideline, Tech would have had the ball at the Zona 40-yard-line with two timeouts in its pocket to work with.  But pushed back to its own 45, the Red Raider offense could not convert this key play into points.

Another entry into the category of moronic and undisciplined penalties has to be Nick McCann’s delay of game call in the third quarter.  It is rare to see a defensive tackle whistled for a delay of game but that was the call against McCann who was judged to be imitating the snap count in an attempt to draw a false start.  If you have to stoop to that level to beat the guy across from you, that is not a great indication of your abilities.

But the final penalty of the night was the most back-breaking because it kept alive the possession on which Arizona took the lead for good.  Following a Tech score to go ahead 14-13 in the third quarter, Arizona faced a 3rd-and-10 from its own 25.

On the play, Tech stopped Tate for no gain but the Red Raiders were flagged for too many men on the field.  That led to a 3rd-and-5 for the Wildcats, which they picked up.  Eight plays later, Tate scored on a 1-yard TD run and Tech was on its way to a loss.

That is the most undisciplined of all the fouls a team can have.  Countless high school programs across the nation will go all year without having too many men on the field yet this new-look Red Raider team that is going to be stronger mentally and more disciplined cost itself a chance at a win because it couldn’t figure out which players needed to be on the field on a critical play.

Of the seven penalties Tech incurred, six were of the mental variety.  That includes both personal fouls.  What’s more, four of those penalties were levied against the defense, which is never wise when facing a top-10 offense in that nation.

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Hopefully, this was not an indication of what is in store this year, which would be more of the same.  In terms of yardage, the penalties were not a bad as last year (when Tech was penalized for over 74 yards per game, 124th in the nation) but because so many of Saturday night’s flags turned out to be game-changing, this is a showing that will be tough to excuse for Red Raider fans.