When it comes to penalties, the University of Alabama football team was a lot better in 2017-18.
Granted, the coaches still had their share of headsets thrown in frustration, but not as many as the two previous seasons.
Specifically, the Crimson Tide were flagged 69 times for 569 yards. According to the NCAA (which for some reason lists Alabama as having an extra penalty), they were tied for 48th in the nation for fewest penalties, and 31st for fewest penalties per game.
That makes sense as Alabama played 14 games last season and most teams did not.
A little surprising was that the Crimson Tide were tied for 32nd in fewest penalty yards, and 23rd in fewest penalty yards per game, because Alabama had a lot of penalties for more than just 5 yards — more on that in a moment.
The previous two seasons, Alabama had 86 penalties, and 89 in 2015. They’re by far the most during the Nick Saban era (since 2007).
Year Alabama Opponents
- 2007 59-463 99-863
- 2008 57-520 87-666
- 2009 69-598 86-729
- 2010 66-490 72-575
- 2011 49-409 59-453
- 2012 54-467 67-565
- 2013 63-520 71-560
- 2014 69-562 61-516
- 2015 89-835 90-696
- 2016 86-660 58-471
- 2017 69-569 61-455
Some of that can be explained by having a returning quarterback.
During the 2016 season, when Jalen Hurts was a freshman, Alabama’s most egregious fouls were false starts. The Crimson Tide had a lot of them with 28, 8 by Cam Robinson. Next on the list were 10 pass-interference calls and 8 holds (and not all were made by the offense).
In comparison, Alabama had just 10 false starts during the 2017 season. Saban would be the first to say that’s too many, but it was still a giant step forward.
Overall, the Crimson Tide’s infractions were much more diverse, including 9 personal fouls, 7 offsides, 7 pass interference, 6 holding, 6 delay of game and 5 unsportsmanlike conduct.
At least with the pass-interference calls, one can understand that some will happen. Alabama again led the nation in rushing defense (94.7), and hardly ever trailed, leaving opponents little choice but to throw the ball. Others tried to take advantage of the occasional size difference in matchups.
As for who was getting penalties, that too was more diverse.
In the official game books, in which the person called for a penalty is usually, but not always, listed, Hurts had the most flags with five. Again, that makes sense as the quarterback is the only player to touch the ball on every snap.
No one else had more than three: Anfernee Jennings, Tony Brown, Isaiah Buggs, Levi Wallace and Matt Womack.
Of course, the most concerning thing to Alabama fans remains the lack of penalties called on opponents.
The 61 times they were flagged in 2017 were just behind last year’s 58, the fewest during Saban’s run at Alabama.
According to teamrankings.com, Alabama was 124th out of 130 teams in opponent penalties, and 130th in penalty yards.