Penalties galore, then and now

USC’s 16 penalties against Washington last night “was not a school record, it just felt like one,” Scott Wolf points out. Well, yeah — I could have told you that. I remember vividly when USC set its school record for penalties, which was also the Pac-10 record for penalties: 21 of ’em. It was September 25, 1999, and the #16-ranked Trojans lost to upstart Oregon, 33-30 in the first conference game of my freshman year. The Trojans would ultimately finish the season 6-6, 3-5 in conference, though head coach Paul Hackett would save his job for one more year by beating UCLA for the first time in nine tries (despite committing 16 penalties in that game as well). Only after following up that season with a 5-7 mark in 2000 (after again starting the season in the Top 25, #15 to be exact) did Hackett finally get canned.

I mention the 1999 Oregon game because you might recall me referencing it a week-and-a-half ago in my post “On being an Irish fan,” as an example of me mocking the Trojans back when they were laughably bad:

[I]f I dig through my old photos…I believe I’d find a picture from the fall of 1999 of my dorm-room whiteboard after a USC-Oregon contest in which Paul Hackett’s Trojans set a new Pac-10 record for penalties in a game. My reaction wasn’t to wail and scream and gnash my teeth and wring my hands; I don’t do teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing; it’s not my thing. Instead, my reaction was mockery. I don’t remember exactly what the whiteboard said, but it was something along the lines of congratulating the Trojans for their glorious Pac-10 record.

I found that photo, BTW:

Anyway… back to last night. What to make of USC’s performance? Boi From Troy is happy because pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, and the Trojans still won. This sentiment was expressed last night at the college-football blog 100% Injury Rate:

The only team that can beat USC is USC. And let me tell you why. Quite simply, there is no team in college that can go on the road, commit three turnovers, have a punt blocked, commit 16 penalties for 160+ yards, and lose two great O-linemen – all against a decent opponent – and win. No one. LSU can’t do that, Cal can’t do that, Ohio State can’t do that. USC played one of those games where they literally did everything they could to keep shooting themselves in the foot and still beat a decent Washington team. That is incredibly impressive. Of course, if USC plays like they did on Saturday against LSU, Cal or Ohio St. they’d be crushed. But the fact remains, they did everything wrong on Saturday against Washington and still won. That’s pretty remarkable. USC is the only team that can stop USC. And they almost did it on Saturday.

On the list of things that went wrong, in Boi’s view, was the officiating:

USC had sixteen penalties called against them. It seemed that the officiating crew was hostile to the Trojans–and I hope the Pac Ten will review their conduct. Twice, USC received personal fouls for knocking a Washington player out of bounds. Were the player actually out of bounds I could understand the penalty, but THEY WERE INBOUNDS when they were hit! The officials also did not call a number of fouls against Washington–most notable being a pass interference covering Joe McKnight–a fact even Tyrone Willingham could not ignore.

I’m not sure if the crew was “hostile” or just incompetent, but I certainly agree that the refs were wretchedly horrible. Although the Trojans played a very sloppy game, and are legitimately responsible for most of those 16 penalties — there’s no excuse, for instance, for all the delay-of-game penalties, which reminded me of the Hackett era — I too was incensed by several of the personal-foul calls, as I noted in comments here and here:

WHAT THE F*** IS WRONG WITH THESE REFS??? Is everything USC does a personal foul?!? How the hell is the defender supposed to know — for sure — while moving in real time, at full speed, that the wide receiver dropped the ball? And that it was a dropped pass, not a fumble? And then immediately stop his forward motion so suddenly that he is able to completely reverse his momentum? FOOTBALL IS A CONTACT SPORT!!! Good grief! These refs are horrible! Let the players play the game!

Note to Brent Musberger: yeah, it looked like a penalty on the slow-motion instant replay, but football is not actually played in slow motion! The players can’t make instant judgments about whether or not to continue tackling in slow motion! And given that your fundamental job as a defensive players is to TACKLE THE OTHER TEAMS’ PLAYERS, shouldn’t the tacklers get a tiny bit of a margin of error?? …

[There was also] the play where Jake Locker decided to go for the first down instead of sliding out of bounds three yards early to avoid the tackle — a decision which clearly opens him up to being clobbered, without any “protect the quarterback” nonsense — and then, about 0.1 seconds after he had gotten the first down and finally turned right and stepped out of bounds, he was hit by a USC defender who had jumped toward him to tackle him while he was still in bounds.

It’s like these refs just don’t understand the concept of momentum at all.

I hope I won’t see officiating that bad again this season, either for or against my team. It’s awful when refs dictate the course of game as much as they did last night.

7 Responses to “Penalties galore, then and now”

  1. David K. says:

    The officiating was pretty terrible, and it did favor the UW team for the most part. There were a couple calls i could see that USC fans might have disliked but were legitimate (pass interference with one guy when a second guy close by ended up trying for the ball is still pass interference), but some of them (late hit, etc) were just plain wrong. Atleast the got the call right about the UW interception in the endzone at the end, as much as I hated it the ball was dropped

  2. Brendan Loy says:

    Thanks David, I’m glad to hear you say that… it provides me the added reassurance that I’m not being a homer about this. :) As for the pass interference thing, obviously it doesn’t matter per se that “a second guy close by ended up trying for the ball,” the question is whether the ball was catchable for the guy who was interfered with. I don’t recall the play well enough to know whether it was or not, but whatever, it was the late hit calls that really bugged me. Those sorts of calls and “all ball” foul calls in basketball are my least favorite bad calls in all of sports…

    So, what do you think are Washington’s chances of making a bowl game? You should have easily winnable games against… let’s see… Arizona, Stanford and Wazzu… and hopefully you can knock off Oregon State as well. That brings you to 6. But do you need 7 to be bowl-eligible, since you’re playing 13 games? If so, I guess you gotta beat Hawaii, Cal, Oregon or ASU, right? That won’t be easy, but hey, it could happen. Jake Locker looks damn good.

  3. Brendan Loy says:

    P.S. Jack Locker vs. Colt Brennan. Do you think that QB matchup will be hyped a little bit? :)

  4. David K. says:

    I think we have a chance, but its a rough chance. We really needed to win that game against UCLA, and now we need to upset both ASU and Oregon for me to feel confident. Arizona, Stanford, WSU i think we can do probably OSU, maybe Hawaii, we’ll see. It makes for an interesting season at least :)

  5. Andrew says:

    I was at the game, but I couldn’t tell ya whether the officiating was good or bad, we were just too far away. I can tell you that USC and Booty looked like shit, the refs need to learn the concept of the “uncatchable” ball, and Husky Stadium sucks ass.

  6. C. Bassett says:

    After watching Hawaii play Idaho on Saturday, Washington may have a better chance on the islands than many people think. Brennan threw five interceptions against Idaho, and they looked a bit shakey overall. Now, that was the first time Brennan has ever thrown more than two interceptions in a single game, and he was still dealing with an injury- he sat out the previous game- but still, Hawaii’s team so far does not look as good as last year’s Hawaii team. Their running game- they actually did have a running game last year and used it successfully when needed- just hasn’t clicked yet, and the defense remains vulnerable.

    Washington could have a very good night in Honolulu.

  7. AO says:

    Add the PI call on Taylor Mays to that list. Absolutely terrible!