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Updated Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 10:16 PM

Huskies have issues with penalties — like most other teams in Pac-12

By Bob Condotta
Seattle Times staff reporter

If misery loves company, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian has plenty among his Pac-12 counterparts when it comes to one of the most frustrating aspects of the season for the Huskies — penalties.

Washington committed a school-record 106 penalties, which ranked 119th nationally (with first being the fewest penalties). The only team in the country with more penalties was UCLA, which had 124. Five Pac-12 teams ranked in the bottom eight in the country in penalties. Only one conference team ranked in the top half — Arizona State, at No. 14.

"I think it speaks for itself," Sarkisian said Thursday. "When we go to our spring meetings, we will see how that gets addressed and if we are going to continue down that road or not. But the numbers are pretty glaring that our conference penalizes more than other conferences do."

Bowl games could provide an answer to whether Pac-12 teams commit more penalties, or just get called for more. Bowls are officiated by crews that are not affiliated with the conferences of either of the participants. A Conference USA crew will work Washington's Dec. 22 contest against Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.

Sarkisian, though, won't deny his team had issues with penalties. The Huskies were called for 11 in their game at LSU, which was officiated by an SEC crew. The Huskies were called for 18 penalties in their Apple Cup loss at Washington State, tying a school record.

Washington's penalties had not been abnormal in Sarkisian's first three seasons as coach — the Huskies had 78 in 13 games in 2011, for instance. So following the Apple Cup, Sarkisian and a few of his assistants took time to study what happened this year.

Sarkisian said there was no simple answer.

"I wish I could just say 'this is exactly it,' " he said. "But we kind of had a variety of them. ... There are plenty of things to work on."

Some, Sarkisian said, were "self-inflicted wound types. That was a decent-sized portion of it, whether it was the false starts, a few more delay-of-games than we would normally have in a season. We went through a stretch there where we had a few post-play penalty types."

Against WSU, as UW blew an 18-point lead, the Huskies were called for four pass-interference penalties in the fourth quarter. The Huskies had seven 15-yard penalties on defense in the fourth quarter of the Apple Cup. "And it showed up all at once, back-to-back-to back," said UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. "It was horrible."

The coaches have made cutting down penalties a focus of the pre-bowl practices, as well as also emphasizing to players not to get caught up in frustration when they are called.

"The refs, it's their call and you can't really argue with them," said center Drew Schaefer. "It is what it is and you kind of have to go through that adversity once the penalty is assessed."

Sarkisian said that studying the numbers makes it hard to judge just how much a team should worry about the amount of penalties it is assessed.

"There isn't a direct correlation, unfortunately, to winning and losing and penalties," he said.

Indeed, among the Pac-12 teams near the bottom of the list of penalties were Oregon, USC and UCLA. The three most-penalized teams in the SEC were Florida (11-1), LSU (10-2) and Georgia (11-2) and the most penalized team in the Big Ten was undefeated Ohio State.

"You look at the teams that are highest in penalties, a lot of them have winning records," Sarkisian said. "So I don't think you can directly say, 'If we cut down penalties, we would win more games.' But I would definitely like to be — I don't want to use the term 'more disciplined team' because I think we are a disciplined team. But I would like to be a cleaner team and minimize those penalties just for the simple fact that you start tallying up penalties and yards (you are) giving your opponents opportunities."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @bcondotta

Penalty flags fly in Pac-12
Five Pac-12 teams rank among the eight most-penalized in the country:
Rank (of 120) School Penalties
120 UCLA 124
119 Washington 106
118 Akron 101
117 California 99
115 Louisiana Tech 98
115 Oregon 98
113 Syracuse 97
113 USC 97
Dec. 22

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas,

UW vs. Boise State, 12:30 p.m., ESPN


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