Penalties plague Tar Heels in 2-4 start to year
Oct. 13, 2014
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — The penalties are adding up for North Carolina again.
The Tar Heels are among the nation's most penalized teams for the third time in as many seasons under Larry Fedora. And those mistakes have played a significant role in UNC's four-game losing streak heading into Saturday's home game with Georgia Tech.
The Tar Heels (2-4, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) are averaging 78 penalty yards per game, ranking 113th out of 125 teams in the bowl subdivision ranks. They've committed at least eight penalties in each of their past four losses, many extending drives for their opponents or killing their own.
Fedora has been talking about his players needing to cut down on the mistakes, but it has yet to happen.
"You keep doing what we're doing," Fedora said Monday. "And you say, 'Well (if) you keep doing what you're doing, you're going to keep getting the same results.' But I really believe in practice we're doing things the way they're supposed to be done. We've just got to play smarter."
This is hardly a new problem. Fedora's first two UNC teams ranked 105th and 109th nationally in penalty yards per game, good for a 64-yard average during that time, according to STATS.
This year, while averaging 14 more penalty yards per game, the Tar Heels have failed to limit themselves to fewer than 40 penalty yards only once. That came in the Week 2 win against San Diego State.
When asked what has to change to fix the problem, senior defensive tackle Ethan Farmer said the team could only try to do better after the flag is thrown.
"I mean, that's the only thing you can do," Farmer said. "Penalties are going to happen in a game. That's the only thing you really can do as a defense or an offense — just move on to the next play."
Still, the troubles proved costly in the weekend 50-43 loss at Notre Dame, where the Tar Heels committed nine penalties for 94 yards.
Fedora said he could live with mistakes such as defenders committing pass interference as a last-ditch effort to avoid surrendering a touchdown after being beaten in coverage. But false-start penalties that keep backing up UNC's offense, for example, are "inexcusable, really."
There was also a personal-foul penalty on Norkeithus Otis for roughing the snapper on a Notre Dame punt after UNC had rallied to take a 36-35 lead late in the third. The penalty on fourth-and-18 extended the Fighting Irish's drive that went for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth.
Fedora said the coaches penalize players in practices for committing penalties, but he's still waiting for his team to cut down on the mistakes.
"This year we've got officials at practice, every practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays," Fedora said. "We've got guys there. We've got them making calls. I don't know what else you do."
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